Lawsuit filed against former Catholic priest and the Denver Archdiocese for child sex abuse
Editor's note: This story contains descriptions of sexual assault.
Scott Verti grew up in the Catholic church.
He served as an altar boy at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Parish in Fort Collins and spent a lot of his free time there with friends, he said. Verti grew very fond of the nuns, priests and deacons he was often around. Everything was fine, he said.
“You know, these were people that God had kind of put in the position of power to lead the whole church towards God,” Verti, 37, said. “So these were people I respected greatly.
Then, when Verti was 14, a new priest, the Rev. Tim Evans, arrived. Evans joined the Fort Collins parish in 1998 after having been ordained as a Roman Catholic Priest in 1993 by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver. Verti alleges Evans immediately started “grooming” him for abuse.
According to a lawsuit filed Thursday morning by Verti and his attorneys against the Archdiocese, the Seton parish and Evans, Verti was abused sexually, physically, mentally and emotionally soon after Evans’ arrival at the Fort Collins parish. The lawsuit says the Archdiocese of Denver is complicit in the abuse because it oversees the northern Colorado parish and hired Evans. According to the lawsuit, the Archdiocese was also aware of the abuse Evans inflicted on children, according to the 35-page complaint.
The lawsuit is being filed under the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act, which ends the statue of limitations for victims to sue their abusers. The state law went into effect in 2022.
Verti, who now lives in Jefferson County, is seeking $100,000 in damages.
In a statement released Thursday, the Denver Archdiocese said it has not been served with a lawsuit or seen the complaint. It said it does not comment on pending litigation.
"The Archdiocese of Denver cares about all survivors of sexual abuse," the statement said. It also said its program for "reparations and healing" is confidential, and cannot comment as to Verti's participation.
Evans is the only priest in Colorado to be tried and convicted of sexual assault since the scandal of widespread abuse in the Catholic Church broke in 2002. The first accusations against Evans came from Jefferson County in 2003, according to a special report released in 2019 by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
According to the report, Evans abused three children from 1990 to 1995. He worked at Spirit of Christ Parish in Arvada, Our Lady of Fatima in Lakewood and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Collins.
Evans was charged in three cases in 2005, and a jury found him guilty in 2007. He was released on parole in 2020.
According to Verti’s lawsuit, Evans used his position of power to frighten and manipulate Verti and some of Verti’s friends for more than three years.
Verti worked closely with Evans soon after Evans’ arrival at the parish, Verti said. Verti began serving as a Sacristan, a person responsible for setting up for Mass, supervising altar boys and facilitating communion.
He also assisted priests and deacons during Mass services, the lawsuit states.
As a part of his Sacristan role, Verti spent long hours at the Fort Collins parish on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings where he was alone with Evans, the lawsuit states. During their time together, Evans would, without warning, become enraged. On several occasions, Evans would slap Verti, strike him on his testicles, slap the wall behind Verti’s head, and hit him in the abdomen so hard he would lose his breath, the lawsuit states.
Evans would also penetrate Verti and perform oral sex on him, according to the lawsuit. Verti said he remained quiet at the time due to fear.
“He sexually assaulted me and physically assaulted me more than a hundred times,” Verti said. “He completely stole the innocence from my childhood and really corrupted my adulthood and my adult life moving forward.”
Navigating impact of the abuse
Verti was a lively kid who enjoyed playing football and basketball. He said he played on the USA track and field youth team, and also ran track for Colorado State.
But he suffered in silence and didn’t tell anyone about the abuse he experienced until he shared it with his fiancee when he was 35, he said. His dog, Coco Janelle, has served as a major emotional support for him too, Verti said.
When the abuse started, Verti was diagnosed with chronic insomnia at 14. Soon after, he said he started wetting the bed again because of night terrors. He went on to develop an addiction to opiates that lasted for over a decade, Verti said.
Two years ago, he was reading an article about Evans’ early release from prison. He learned in the story that a new law in Colorado would allow victims the opportunity to hold their abusers and institutions accountable for abuse dating back to 1960, Verti said.
It’s the Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act, which ends the statute of limitations for survivors to sue their abuser, and allows them to bring a lawsuit against a school district, youth group or other institution that should have known they were putting young participants at risk.
“I saw that as, you know, finally an opportunity to really right this regret that I had always had of not coming forward when I was younger,” Verti said. “It was also just at a time in my life where I’d struggled with addiction throughout most of my adult life.”
Verti said he has now been sober the last two years.
Kurt Zaner, one of Verti’s attorneys from the Zaner Harden Law Firm in Denver, said it was time for Verti’s story to be told.
“For the past four decades, five, six decades, they have gone to great lengths to conceal these types of abuses, to hide in church records, the true nature of the abuse, and to discourage victims from coming out and speaking out against them and seeking accountability.”
History of abuse in the archdiocese
In 2019, an independent review of the Catholic dioceses of Colorado was announced by Denver Archbishop Aquila and Attorney General Phil Weiser.
The goal was to determine which priests had credible allegations of sexual abuse against them. The report found that more than 160 children were sexually victimized by 43 priests over 70 years and that the state's three dioceses spent decades trying to cover that abuse up.
The report also found that the Colorado Dioceses have often used elusive language to shroud reports and their knowledge of clergy child sex abuse.
Colorado’s Catholic churches voluntarily participated in the review conducted by former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer. No allegations that arose in the records review or investigation were referred to any Colorado district attorney’s office.
In the statement released Thursday, the Denver Archdiocese said it resolved more than 55 claims and paid more than $6 million in reparations through the program set up after that report was released called the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program. It ended in 2020.
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