Judge’s ruling disappoints attorney

Serbin says ruling means sexual abuse victim can’t have her day in court

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A local attorney said Monday that he is disappointed with the recent ruling by a Blair County judge, concluding that the statute of limitations has expired for a woman who last year filed a civil lawsuit, revealing that she was sexually molested, as a youth, by her priest.

The ruling prevents Renee Rice from having her day in court, Altoona attorney Richard Serbin said Monday.

Rice and her sister, Cheryl Haun, last year sued the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese and the Rev. Charles Bodziak, a former priest at St. Leo’s Church in the 1970s when Rice and Haun were growing up. The women accused Bodziak of groping, fondling and kissing them in the 1970s when they were children and he was their priest.

Bodziak denied the charges and on Monday, his attorney, R. Thomas Forr, said he thought Kopriva’s conclusion was valid.

“A judge is to decide a case based upon the law … and in this case, the law says there’s a statute of limitations,” Forr said.

Serbin, in court and in court documents, had asked Kopriva to consider exceptions to the statute of limitations as she reviewed the lawsuit. But Kopriva’s ruling indicates she found none and that conclusion is expected to be relevant to Haun’s lawsuit, which is pending.

“In summary, as there are no applicable exceptions to the two-year statue of limitations in this case, the plaintiff’s claims are barred as untimely,” the judge concluded in her opinion.

Serbin said he intends to review the options for his client to appeal.

“The court did not determine the merits of Renee’s claim that Father Bodziak repeatedly sexually assaulted her beginning at age 8, or that the diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and its bishops conspired to conceal their knowledge of his sexual interest in children,” Serbin said in a statement distributed Monday.

The diocese, through spokesman Tony DeGol, declined comment on the ruling.

Bodziak’s status with the diocese, as suspended from public ministry, remains unchanged, DeGol said.

Serbin said that his client and other survivors of sexual abuse who reveal what happened to them deserve the public’s gratitude for their courage and determination in helping to expose these heinous crimes against children.

Forr said Bodziak never had a chance to go before the grand jury that issued its March 2016 report naming Bodziak among church officials within the Altoona-Johnstown Catholic Diocese, who were accused of molesting children during a 40-year time span.

“He was never subpoeaned,” Forr said. “And when somebody makes an accusation about something that happened 30 years ago, how do you defend yourself?”

Serbin said it’s the survivors of child sexual abuse who deserve justice because the statute of limitation hinders the identification of child predators and their protectors.

“We must all work to convince our state legislators to eliminate or change the current law for civil claims, so that it protects our children and grandchildren rather than sexual abusers,” Serbin said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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