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Priest facing sex charges wants his day in court

Published Mar. 20, 2002|Updated Sep. 2, 2005

A Roman Catholic priest proclaimed his innocence Tuesday of allegations that he sexually assaulted two women and said he looked forward to defending himself in court.

The Rev. Jan Malicki, 52, spoke publicly for the first time since two women accused him in 1998 of sexually molesting, assaulting and battering them from 1994 to 1997 while he served as associate pastor at St. David Catholic Church in suburban Fort Lauderdale.

"I am not guilty of the things I was accused of," Malicki said. "For 4{ years it's been a crucifying time for me, very long and very painful."

The priest's announcement came as the Roman Catholic Church deals with sexual abuse scandals that have roiled the Palm Beach diocese and Boston archdiocese.

Palm Beach Bishop Anthony J. O'Connell resigned after admitting to a newspaper that he molested a seminary student during the 1970s. In Boston, a former priest has been accused by 130 people of molesting them during his decades as a clergyman.

The two women, whose identities remained sealed, sued Malicki, the church and the Archdiocese of Miami in July 1998, arguing that church officials were negligent in hiring the priest because they did not perform background checks on him. The women sought $25-million in damages.

Court records said both of the women were parishioners. One was a minor who worked at the church in exchange for free tuition at St. Thomas High School. The other worked at the church in exchange for her children's tuition at the church's school.

Ellis Rubin, Malicki's attorney, said one woman was a member of the choir and the other worked in the office of the church. He said they conspired to make the allegations based on financial motives.

William Snihur, a lawyer for the two women, said he had evidence supporting the allegations.

Malicki was removed from the church in 1998 and suspended from performing his ministerial duties. During a news conference on Aug. 6, 2000, officials with the archdiocese said the priest might be arrested.

But Broward state attorney's office declined to prosecute Malicki about three weeks later, citing a lack of evidence.

The lawsuit remained dormant for nearly four years while the archdiocese argued that the U.S. Constitution's establishment of religious freedom banned such suits.

Last week, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Malicki's case and another involving an Episcopal priest that churches are not protected, saying the "First Amendment does not provide a shield behind which a church may avoid liability" for negligent hiring and supervision of its clergy.

A Miami-Dade Circuit judge had earlier ruled for the church.The case has now been returned to the Circuit Court.

Rubin said he will ask a judge to lift a stay on the case on April 8 so it can move to trial.

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