New Bedford Priest Sex Abuse Claim Settled
NEW BEDFORD — An Acushnet man will receive six figures after settling a lawsuit against the Fall River Diocese over allegations that a former New Bedford priest sexually abused him multiple times in the late 1980s.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented plaintiff Jason Medeiros in the suit brought in 2022, announced the settlement on Tuesday.
Medeiros was a former altar boy at St. Anthony of Padua in New Bedford, where he also participated in a Catholic youth group led by Father Richard Degagne.
Degagne was one of three priests listed in 2021 by the Fall River Diocese as being "credibly accused" of child abuse.
He had been suspended from his duties in 2019 pending an investigation into abuse claims.
Medeiros, a former student at St. Anthony of Padua School, claimed in the lawsuit that Degagne sexually abused him multiple times in and around New Bedford starting in 1988, when he was just 12 years old.
Degagne also allegedly abused Medeiros during an overnight trip to Maine in 1988.
The former priest denied the allegations against him when he was suspended in 2019.
Now in his late 60s, Degagne was ordained in 1982 and worked at the St. Anthony of Padua Parish from around 1986 to 1991, according to Medeiros' lawsuit.
Before he was removed from ministry, he also worked in Attleboro, Fall River, Taunton, and East Freetown, and now lives in Maine.
According to Garabedian, Degagne sexually abused Medeiros in several locations, including in the St. Anthony rectory, in his car, in a cabin in Maine, and in the shower at a New Hampshire bed and breakfast.
"This settlement illustrates once again the moral failure of supervisors within the Catholic Church to protect an innocent child from a predatory priest," the attorney noted, adding that the victim was courageous in coming forward.
Medeiros wrote in the complaint that the abuse resulted in him suffering from "severe and permanent mental distress and emotional injuries."
Garabedian said Tuesday that the lawsuit was settled "in the low to mid six figures," although an exact number was not provided.