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Priest exonerated after abuse allegations by Ellensburg man

UPDATED: Sun., Dec. 20, 2020

YAKIMA, Wash. (AP) — One of four priests accused of sexual abuse by an Ellensburg man has been exonerated, with the man’s attorneys expressing regret over the false accusation and the priest being restored to ministry.

The Rev. Seamus Kerr, 91, was named in a lawsuit filed in Kittitas County last year by a man identified only as John Doe, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported. The man said he was abused as a boy in the late 1970s and early 1980s at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Ellensburg.

But during the course of the litigation, it was revealed that Kerr, who has been a priest for 60 years, was wrongly accused. The lawsuit was settled on Dec. 10, with the Catholic Diocese of Yakima agreeing to pay $15,000 in past and future counseling costs for the man in exchange for the lawsuit’s dismissal.

According to a news release from the diocese, the man’s attorneys wrote Kerr a letter stating: “On behalf of our client … we acknowledge that the allegations of sexual abuse and improper conduct made against you, including statements in court pleadings and the press, have proven to be false.”

“We hereby withdraw the allegations and express our regret for any harm they may have caused to you and your reputation,” the letter said.

Daniel Fasy, a Seattle attorney who represented the man, confirmed the contents of the letter in a phone call with The Associated Press on Saturday. Fasy declined to comment further on the case.

Monsignor Robert Siler, a spokesman for the diocese, said church officials had doubts about the other allegations in the lawsuit as well.

“No other victims came forward despite widespread advertising and news coverage,” he said.

Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson has reinstated Kerr, who took a leave of absence following the allegations. Kerr remains active as a senior priest at Holy Apostles Parish in East Wenatchee.

“I regret any abuse this man has suffered, and I am hopeful the help we are offering will be of benefit to him,” Tyson said in the release. “And I am very pleased that Father Kerr has been fully exonerated. He has served the Church faithfully and well since his ordination in 1960.”

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