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Doe v. Pahl

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of New Britain, New Britain

August 20, 2015

Michael Doe
v.
Shawn Pahl et al

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION

Cynthia K. Swienton, J.

This is an action brought by the plaintiff, using the pseudonym Michael Doe, against the defendants Shawn Pahl, Pahl's parents, Donald Pahl and Barbara Pahl, Father Ronald Smith, St. John the Evangelist Church (St. John Church), and the Archdiocese of Hartford, alleging a number of different claims all arising from the sexual abuse of the plaintiff by Shawn Pahl. The only remaining defendant is Shawn Pahl.[1]

The court conducted a trial on August 6, 2015. The plaintiff proceeded on count two of the operative complaint dated September 20, 2013, sounding in negligent assault and battery. The court heard from only two witnesses, the plaintiff and the defendant. The court finds the following facts.

Shawn Pahl was hired as a part-time organist and choir director by St. John Church when he was in his late twenties.[2] The plaintiff was twelve when he first met Pahl. He had an interest in organ playing and music in general, and approached Pahl to express his interest in playing the organ, and also in joining the youth choir. The two developed a friendship, and when the plaintiff was to be confirmed, he asked Pahl to be his confirmation sponsor. On May 23, 2003, he was confirmed. He was fourteen and Pahl was thirty-three.

The plaintiff suspected that Pahl might be a homosexual due to the rainbow stickers that he had placed on his motor vehicle. After the confirmation ceremony, the plaintiff, his family and Pahl went out to dinner, and the plaintiff went back to Pahl's house, where he lived with his parents, Donald and Barbara Pahl. The two discussed various topics, and the subject of homosexuality came up. The plaintiff shared with Pahl his experiences that he had with boys his age, and he was excited to talk to someone about what he was going through. Unfortunately, Pahl used this misplaced trust to take advantage of the situation and begin the process of grooming the plaintiff for his own sexual pleasures.

About a month after they had dinner, the plaintiff had summer vacation, and finding himself with little to do and his friends away, he contacted Pahl. Their last conversation had been intriguing to him, not surprising since he was a teenager going through self-discovery that he had no one to speak with. At the time his relationship with his mother was not a strong one, his father was not in his life, and Pahl served as a father figure, mentor and partner. The two spent some time together, and then in July 2003, the plaintiff called Pahl because he didn't have anyone to talk to. Pahl invited him to his house, and into his bedroom, which was filled with pornographic videos and magazines, mostly consisting of homosexual acts and photographs.

Pahl proceeded to put a video on and began masturbating, inviting the plaintiff to join in with him. The plaintiff did not. The plaintiff visited Pahl at his home several other times, and at some point, while watching a video, Pahl began to rub the inside of the plaintiff's thigh, telling him this was no different than what the plaintiff did with his friends. But it was very different. At some point, Pahl asked the plaintiff to perform oral sex on him, which the plaintiff did.[3]

Pahl bought the plaintiff gifts, a $600 road bike, a coffee table, various clothes, etc. The two did various things together--they went to the mall, the movies, trips to New York City, and Pahl introduced the plaintiff to some of Pahl's friends--some of whom were convicted sex offenders.

At this time the plaintiff believed that he was being mentored on how to be openly gay and how to interact with other males. In tenth grade he was placed in a special education program due to behavioral issues. He identified as being bisexual and homosexual.

The " relationship" between the plaintiff and Pahl came to an end around the fourth of July when the plaintiff had just turned sixteen. He had begun to associate with some other youths in the neighborhood, and he was invited to a party and Pahl was not. The plaintiff was given a handwritten love letter from Pahl in which Pahl said he wanted to engage in a threesome with the plaintiff and another young man who was fourteen, who happened to be the plaintiff's best friend. The plaintiff became very upset, accusing the defendant of what he is, a pedophile.

When the plaintiff and his mother went to pick up his bike from Pahl's house, they were confronted by Pahl's mother with a list of items Pahl had purchased for the plaintiff. Pahl's mother told the plaintiff and his mother that the plaintiff owed them money for these gifts. The plaintiff's mother's boyfriend sensed something was very wrong, and the plaintiff finally confided in him what had happened. Pahl was eventually arrested and charged with two counts of sexual assault in the second degree, in violation of General Statutes § 53a-7, and two counts of risk of injury to a minor, in violation of General Statutes § 53-21. (Plaintiff's Exh. 12.) He eventually pled guilty on September 19, 2006, to one count of risk of injury to a minor and was sentenced to five years of incarceration, execution suspended after one year, five years probation, and ten years of sexual offender registry.[4]

The plaintiff is twenty-six years old, and employed installing home theaters and home security systems. He is a very handsome, articulate and intelligent young man. Unfortunately because of the sexual assault that occurred when he was an impressionable and questioning young man, he has been affected in all facets of his life. He experiences difficulty with relationships, has severe self-image issues, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He has severe anxiety and panic attacks, and has experienced deep depressive episodes which resulted in hospitalization for a suicide attempt.

As recent as several months ago, the plaintiff woke up and decided that he should commit suicide. He stated that he wanted to hang himself and " get this all over with so [he wouldn't] have to deal with [the trial]." Luckily and thankfully he became scared enough to go to the hospital.

The defendant, Pahl, shows no remorse, and in fact denies the sexual assault. Although the statement he gave to the police when questioned admitted that he performed oral sex with the plaintiff in March 2004, he testified that is not what he said. He blames the plaintiff for " using his charm." The court did not find him credible. He accepts no responsibility for any of his actions--everyone else is incorrect, everyone else is wrong. This ...


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