Lawyers for St. Pius X Catholic School said the year-old sexual misconduct allegations stirred up recently have “opened up a can of worms” and are ultimately unrelated to the four bullying lawsuits that led to them being made more public.
Mark Redditt, one of the school’s attorneys, made those statements during a hearing in Judge Ben Brooks’ courtroom this morning, resulting in a 101-day extension that will allow the plaintiffs to conduct additional depositions.Mobile’s Archdiocese made headlines earlier this week after court documents showed its attorneys made a significant attempt in another St. Pius case to prevent the depositions of several individuals thought to have knowledge of an alleged case of sexual misconduct between the school’s pastor, Johnny S. Savoie, and a 16-year-old boy.
The plaintiffs have attempted to confirm whether St. Pius officials or their attorneys reached out to law enforcement when the allegations of seuxal misconduct first surfaced.
A spokesperson with the Mobile County District Attorney’s office confirmed Thursday their office was never notified, but the Baldwin County’s District Attorney’s office issued a statement late Thursday saying they had been contacted by the school’s attorneys in 2013 about the allegations against Savoie.
However, based upon the nature of the allegations and the ages of the individuals involved, a representative of Dixon’s office said “the alleged conduct did not violate any criminal statutes,” and action was not pursued. Baldwin County’s DA’s office has not responded to further questions as to whether any investigation was conducted or any interviews took place prior to the claims being dismissed.
In previous court documents, attorneys for the plaintiffs said if the sexual abuse allegations weren’t handled properly, it would be an important factor pointing toward their claims of “wantonness.”
In the separate case, Reddit told Brooks that granting additional time to accommodate more depositions would create a “huge cost” for St. Pius X.
“The plaintiffs indicate they want to dispose people on issues completely unrelated to this case. Those include district attorneys and people within the archdiocese over an unrelated allegation against a gentleman who happens to be the pastor of this church,” Reddit said in his arguments against the extension. “(The allegation) was made years ago when (Savoie) was in Fairhope. We could spend another $100,000 taking on these depositions, but it’s not going to change one thing that we’ll say today or anything (the plaintiffs) will respond to.”
Because there are separate cases, Brooks’ extension doesn’t mean Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich and Baldwin County District Attorney Hallie Dixon will be providing depositions any time soon. Those requests were made in the case A.S. v. St. Pius et al, and are being heard by Circuit Court Judge Sarah Stewart, where a request from the defense to suspend several subpoenas is still pending.
As for questions of abuse and how the church handled them, Redditt said his legal focus on the case is solely on the “liability” the school has in the cases of alleged bullying. He went on to say even if everything the plaintiffs have alleged was true, there would still be no legal “liability” claim under Alabama law.
“The biggest problem we have with these cases is all of the people being sued. It’s destroying the school. We’re having teachers take time out of school, and every time there’s a deposition we have teachers in tears,” Redditt said. “It’s a major problem in the operation of the school, and we’ve got to get these cases behind us.”
Following the hearing, Redditt stuck to his guns and wouldn’t comment to the media about the allegations against Savoie, saying only, “it’s unrelated to this case.”
Procedurally, the consideration for an extension appeared to be rooted in some sort of confusion over an order from October 2014, which Brooks says should have ended the discovery period for liability claims.
Friday’s hearing was originally planned to address a request for judgement made by the defendants, based on assumption the discovery portion of the case had ended. However, Brooks ultimately allowed the extension, which gives the plaintiffs’ attorneys a chance to depose around a dozen individuals before May 9.
Brooks said he had allowed the extension “not because he had to, but out of an over abundance of caution,” because the plaintiffs deserved to have enough time to complete their discovery.
“I don’t want this taken up on appeal on the case that discovery wasn’t completed. That shouldn’t be an issue,” Brooks said. “This case should be decided, for both parties, based on the merits instead of tying this case up (with appeals) for the next year.”
Brooks did say if anyone unrelated to the liability factors in the case was deposed, he would charge the plaintiff’s attorneys, David Kennedy and Christine Hernandez, for the cost of those depositions.