Attorney rebuts allegations against retired Enid priest

Friday, April 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ENID, Okla. (AP) _ An Enid attorney is rebutting allegations made in a sexual abuse lawsuit filed against a retired Roman Catholic priest.

The Rev. David Imming and the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City are named in the lawsuit filed this week by Oklahoma City attorney Philip Schovanec, who alleges Imming sexually abused him when he was a teenager 20 years ago.

``Certainly there's nothing in his reputation to suggest this is true,'' attorney Stephen Jones said.

The lawsuit says Imming, who was assigned to churches in Enid and Alva, was forced to retire following another sexual abuse complaint filed by a different young male parishioner involving the same period of time that Imming allegedly abused Schovanec.

The lawsuit accuses the church, Archbishop Eusebius J. Beltran and the late Archbishop Charles Salatka of withholding information about Imming's conduct. It accuses them of conspiring to conceal information from law enforcement authorities and other parishioners.

Attorney H. Blanton Brown, who is representing Schovanec, said he has several witnesses who have told him they were victims like Schovanec.

``We're getting a fair number who are telling us their stories,'' Brown said Thursday.

Jones said he has trouble with statements contained within the petition attributed to Schovanec, saying those statements seem to be hyperbolic. He also is uneasy about Schovanec's claim of a repressed memory, saying ``that's rather unusual for someone who is an attorney.''

Jones said he disagrees with claims against the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Beltran. He said Beltran has acted appropriately in midst of recent news regarding sexually abusive priests by forming an independent archdiocese review panel to investigate claims.

He said he has problems with allegations leveled at Beltran.

``He was archbishop in Tulsa for many years before the pope elevated him to the Oklahoma City Archdiocese,'' Jones said. ``The archbishop position is pretty responsible. You don't make the village idiot an archbishop.''