Scott Verti hopes a lawsuit will begin to remedy a long-held regret.
The 37-year-old Denver man on Thursday sued former Catholic priest Timothy Evans, the Archdiocese of Denver and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Parish over allegations that Evans sexually assaulted Verti at the Fort Collins church two decades ago.
Evans was convicted of abusing other boys in 2007, but Verti didn’t come forward as a victim at that time, staying behind the scenes even as Evans was sentenced to 14 years to life in prison. But when Verti saw that Evans had been released from prison in 2020, Verti was ready to take action.
“It didn’t feel right that he was out and about,” Verti said. “I always regretted not coming forward at the time of his first conviction. This was an opportunity to solve that regret.”
Thursday’s lawsuit was brought under Colorado’s Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act, which took effect in 2022. The law creates a three-year window in which victims of childhood sexual assault can bring civil claims for assaults that allegedly happened between 1960 and 2022.
Verti claims that Evans sexually assaulted him more than 100 times between 1998 and 2003, when Verti was between the ages of 13 and 18 and serving as a sacristan in the parish, which meant he was responsible for supervising altar boys, setting up Mass and assisting priests and deacons throughout services.
Because of the assaults, Verti began having trouble sleeping and was diagnosed with chronic insomnia when he was in seventh grade, he said. He eventually turned to heroin and opioids, which “numbed” his feelings and allowed him to sleep, he said. He slid into addiction for years, but is now in recovery and two years sober.
“For a long time I didn’t realize how bad the abuse was and how wrong it was, and I also was really uncomfortable being associated with it in any way,” he said. “So now, much later, being an adult and working through a lot of it in therapy. … Hopefully, other people can hear this and other people can come forward.”
Catholic leaders had been warned about Evans’ inappropriate behavior while he was still in training to become a priest, but ignored those warnings, a 2019 investigation by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office found.
Evans was sent home from seminary in Rome in 1990 because he inappropriately touched and sexually harassed other students. One classmate warned the Archdiocese of Denver in 1991 that Evans “should not be ordained because he would misuse the priesthood,” the attorney general’s report found.
“They knew he had a history of sexual harassment, inappropriate relationships with minors all the way back when he was in seminary,” Verti said. He is seeking more than $100,000 in damages, according to the complaint.
After Evans was sent home from seminary, the Denver Archdiocese sent him to a “carefully supervised pastoral internship” in Northglenn, where he twice “demonstrated inappropriate boundaries and judgment in relationships with teenage male parishioners,” the AG’s office found. The archdiocese then required Evans to do another year of internship at another parish before declaring he had been “fixed,” and ordained him.
Evans went on to abuse boys in several Colorado parishes.
In 2007, Evans was convicted of three counts of sexual assault of a child by a person in a position of trust for groping a 17-year-old boy in 1999 while he was pastor at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, and that same year was also convicted of groping a 16-year-old boy in 1995 or 1996 at Spirit of Christ Catholic Community in Arvada. Evans also sexually abused a teenage boy at Our Lady Fatima Parish, the Attorney General’s Office found.
Evans was sentenced to 14 years to life in prison in 2007. He was released on parole in 2020 after serving 13 years in prison.
Verti said he hopes the lawsuit will not only encourage other victims to come forward during the window of civil liability, but also put pressure on Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila to do a better job of listening to and supporting survivors of abuse, and to better protect children in the future.
“I hope he is taking this seriously and using this as an opportunity to really change,” Verti said.
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