Lawsuit accuses St. Agatha's pastor of sexually abusing teen

Father Rolando Garcia placed on administrative leave

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MIAMI - The Archdiocese of Miami announced Wednesday night that Father Rolando Garcia, Pastor of St. Agatha Catholic Church, has been placed on administrative leave.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday accuses Garcia of sexually abusing a teenager nearly 20 years ago.

The Archdiocese said in a statement it had no prior knowledge of the allegation before the lawsuit was announced at a press conference Tuesday.

According to the complaint, Tony Simmons, referred to as John Doe No. 95 in the lawsuit, met Garcia at Little Flower Hollywood Church in 1994. Garcia approached Simmons, who was 16 at the time and had just been thrown out of his home, Simmons said.

The complaint alleges Garcia took Simmons to a movie and sexually abused him on the way home. The abuse continued in the ensuing years.

"So I go over to his office and he performed oral sex on me in his office in the church," said Simmons, who is now 34 years old.

Simmons said the abuse stopped when he joined the U.S. Army in 2003.

"He controlled my job, he controlled where I lived. I was trapped. If I didn't do it, then I don't have a job and if I don't have a job, nowhere to live," said Simmons.

"The sex abuse included oral sex, it included sodomy, and it went on for years," said Jeff Herman, the attorney representing Simmons. "Over a hundred times, this young man was sexually abused by Father Garcia."

The Archdiocese of Miami emailed the following statement Wednesday night: "Upon learning of this allegation, the Archdiocese, in addition to having placed Father Garcia on administrative leave, the Archdiocese will offer counseling to the alleged victim and conduct an investigation following procedures outlined in 'Protecting God's Children.'"

"This past August, when an allegation was made against Fr. Garcia, the Archdiocese contacted him while Father was on vacation in Cuba. At that time, Archbishop Wenski placed Father Garcia on administrative leave and instructed that he not return to St. Agatha's until an investigation had been complete. Fr. Garcia was extremely cooperative and voluntarily took a lie detector test that supported his denial of having abused anyone at any time. At that time, the Archdiocese also interviewed the alleged victim."

"With the investigation completed and upon the recommendation of the Archdiocesan Review Board, it was determined that the allegation was not credible. Archbishop Wenski returned Fr. Garcia to his parish following his ten-day leave. Upon his return, Fr. Garcia read his statement at every Mass on the August 24-25, 2012, providing full disclosure of the allegation and the outcome of the investigation. Subsequent to these events, lawsuit was filed against Fr. Garcia and the Archdiocese of Miami."

"In that case and in the present one, the Archdiocese of Miami has followed its policy "Protecting God's Children" on the procedures to follow when any allegation of sexual abuse is made.
During this time, we ask for your prayers for the parishioners of St. Agatha Church, for Father Garcia and for all those affected by this latest accusation."

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