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Archdiocese of Hartford Settles Sexual Abuse Claim Against Priest

"John Doe" was sexually abused for months by Edward Warnakulasuriya, a Roman Catholic Priest who was serving as associate pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Watertown at the time of the abuse.

The Archdiocese of Hartford has agreed to settle a 16-year-old sexual abuse claim against one of its priests.

According to a press release issued by the plaintiff 's lawyers, "John Doe" as he was known in court documents was repeatedly abused, battered, and sexually assaulted over a six month period by Edward Warnakulasuriya, also known as Edward Tissera, a Sri Lankan priest who at the time was the associate pastor at St. John the Evangelist Church in Watertown.

The abuse started in October 2000 when the plaintiff was 13 years old.

The plaintiff's attorneys did not disclose the dollar amount of the settlement, which was mediated by Hartford Superior Court Judge Antonio Robaina.

"We settled this matter without a single deposition being taken, which saved our client the extreme emotional distress and burden that would have come with being deposed and reliving his painful experiences," said "John Doe's" attorney, Ernie Teitell. "In fact, pleadings were not even closed and limited discovery was exchanged when the case was settled."

In a statement, the Archdiocese of Hartford said Warnakulasuriya was placed on administrative leave in 2011, shortly after he was arrested for allegedly fondling a teenage boy while giving him confession at his residence.

That incident occurred when Warnakulasuriya was associate pastor at St. Bernard's Church in Simsbury. He later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor sexual assault charge in that incident.

"It is the policy of the Archdiocese of Hartford not to comment on specific settlements. As to Rev. Edward J. Tissera (Warnakulasuriya), he has not been in active ministry since he was placed on administrative leave in July of 2011," said archdiocese spokeswoman Maria Zone in a written statement.

"It is important to note that the Archdiocese of Hartford has a zero-tolerance policy regarding clergy sexual abuse of minors and regards the safety of children and young people as one of its highest priorities," said Zone.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series “Where Art Thou?” Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of “Morning Edition”, and later of “All Things Considered.”

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