MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Miami-Dade jury has awarded a landmark, $100 million to a 40-year-old Lansing, Michigan man who says he was sexually abused by a now-disgraced Miami priest in 1986.
That victim, Andres Susana, is allowing himself to be identified and speaking out for the first time because of the jury's decision. A jury at the Dade Courthouse awarded Susana $10 million in compensatory damages and $90 million in punitive damages in order to punish the priest, Neil Doherty.
Doherty has been accused of abusing young boys from the 1970s through 2002 at parishes in South Florida when the Archdiocese of Miami put him on leave and he retired.
"This is a great day for victims," said attorney Jeff Herman, whose law firm pursued this case when Susana came forward. "The jury sent a message that was loud and clear that predators will not be allowed to harm children and they will be held accountable."
"I am satisfied and feel that justice was served and that other voices will be heard," Susana told CBS4's Peter D'Oench.
Herman says Susana was a 14-year-old runaway on the streets of Miami when he met Doherty, who Herman says had been cruising the area around the Keystone Trailer Park in Miami when he met Susana.
Herman says Doherty gave Susana food, clothing and drugs and then raped him on a number of occasions.
"It was extremely difficult for me to come forward," Susana told D'Oench. "It took me many years for this story to be known. The message is that sexual predators in this community, be they priests or teachers, won't be tolerated and whoever this happens to should not wait so long to come forward."
"What he did to me was unforgiveable," said Susana. "I have to live with that for the rest of my life. He basically took my life and turned it upside down. It will never be the same."
"Doherty used his life to exploit and ravage the most vulnerable people in our community," said attorney Jessica Arbour, who also pursued this case with Herman.
Doherty faces a number of other battles.
Last week, he was sued by two other men who claim they were abused by Doherty. And Doherty faces a trial February 27th in Fort Lauderdale in a criminal case in which he faces eight counts of sexual battery and lewd and lascivious conduct involving children.
Doherty is still technically a priest but he is no longer allowed to lead a mass or dress as a priest. Because of his pending Broward case, he is now in jail.
Attorney Herman is not sure how much money he'll be able to collect from Doherty for Susana. "We'll worry about collections later," Herman said. "Right now, this is all about the message that the jury is sending."
Herman also sued the Archdiocese of Miami on behalf of Susana but that case was dismissed. Herman is appealing that decision.
The Archdiocese of Miami had no comment about this verdict because a spokeswoman said the case involved just Doherty.
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