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Zaner Harden Files Civil Suit Against Archdiocese of Denver

Former altar boy sues Colorado’s only priest to serve prison time for sex assault and Denver Archdiocese

Attorneys say church officials saw red flags with prior sexual misconduct allegations but exposed the priest to children, resulting in ‘foreseeable” assaults (DENVER, COLORADO) – Jan. 19, 2023

Attorneys on Thursday filed a civil lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Denver and a local church on behalf of a former altar boy, alleging that a longtime priest – and one of Colorado’s most notorious sex-abusers — raped and committed more than 100 instances of sexual assault against the boy inside church offices and at the priest’s apartment.

Rev. Timothy Evans – Colorado’s only priest to serve prison time for rape while serving as a Catholic priest — repeatedly abused Scott Verti from the ages 14-18 in 1999-2003 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Parish in Fort Collins, leaving him with long-standing injuries, court papers say.

During the time of abuse, Verti worked as an altar boy and spent long hours at the parish, including Saturday nights and Sunday mornings. Court papers say Evans used fear and intimidation as an authority figure to control his victim and ensure he remained silent about the abuse he was suffering.

Now age 38 and living in the Denver area, Verti has agreed to disclose his name in court papers in the hopes of encouraging other victims to come forward. “I want other abuse survivors to know they are not alone and there is hope for justice,” said Verti. “The innocence of my childhood was stolen, and my adult life was corrupted because of this abuse.

The litigation process so far has been incredibly cathartic by giving me a sense of control in my life I’ve never felt.”   Plaintiff’s attorneys filed the case in the District Court for the City and County of Denver. Verti’s case was filed under a “lookback window” signed into law in Colorado in 2021 that allows child sex-abuse victims to file civil cases against individuals and responsible institutions until Dec. 31, 2024 that might otherwise be time-barred by expired statutes of limitations.

The law applies to incidents of child sexual abuse that occurred on or after Jan.1, 1960.

“This priest left a trail of destruction,” said Kurt Zaner, a high-profile Denver trial attorney representing Verti.   “As the Complaint details, Father Timothy Evans was a violent sexual predator who should have never been anywhere near children,” added Leander L. James, a national advocate for abuse victims who will be assisting Zaner.

Court papers say that often in tandem with the act of sexual abuse, Evans would suddenly and without warning, fly into an intense rage, repeatedly struck Verti in the testicles, hit a wall directly by Verti’s head, and once struck Verti in the abdomen so hard it caused him to lose his breath.

The violence and repeated abuse left Verti suffering from trauma and depression.

Court papers say Denver church officials for years had clear indications that Evans posed a danger. In 2019, Colorado’s attorney general wrote about Evans in a report, stating:

  • Evans exhibited inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature as early as his seminary years, from 1985 to 1993.
  • During Evans’ third year of seminary at North American College in Rome, 1989 to 1990, Evans was sent home before completing his studies because he made his fellow seminarians uncomfortable. The head of his seminary school characterized Evans as “not suited for the seminary environment,” noting that Evans tended to ‘move in’ on the new men, threatening them and making them feel guilty” if they did not respond as he wanted.
  • In January 1991, when a fellow seminarian learned Evans would be returning, he informed Denver Archdiocese’s Vicar for Clergy that news of Evans’ return sparked fear and agitation amongst the seminarians. The same student also reported that Evans had inappropriately touched him, including putting his hands around his neck in a “choking fashion” and coming up behind him and putting his arms around his shoulders. On a separate occasion, Evans sexually harassed the same seminarian by entering his room with just a towel around his waist, asking: “Did you miss me?” This same whistleblower seminarian told the Archdiocese’s Vicar for Clergy “Evans should not be ordained because he would misuse the priesthood in the parish, writing: “[I am] very concerned about his manipulation of relationships in his present parish and the damage that he could do.” The Archdiocese, however, held Evans out as a spiritual leader who was safe around parishioners, the public, and children.
  • During his first pastoral year, Evans’ supervising pastor informed the Denver Archdiocese of instances in which Evans demonstrated inappropriate boundaries and judgment in relationships with teenage male parishioners. In one instance, Evans visited a bed-ridden, 16-year-old high-school boy at the hospital for several hours a day, even on his days off, prompting the boy’s mother to contact the pastor and question the “appropriateness” of Evans’ visits.

Two years ago in the midst of the pandemic, in July 2020, the Colorado Board of Parole granted Evans parole after he served 13 years of his 18-year sentence in prison for sex assaults. In 2007, Evans was found guilty of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust and received a sentence of 14 years to life, with four years added for an additional sex-assault case.   As a condition of parole, Evans will be monitored for life.

Ordained in 1993, Evans served at Spirit of Christ Parish in Arvada from 1994-1996 before serving as pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Parish from 1999-2003. In 2003, the church sent Evans for counseling after he sexually harassed an adult male parishioner.   Civil attorneys say that although Evans’ criminal sentence is over, the civil case is just beginning.

Due to his years of service as a priest, it likely means more victims are out there.   “We’re anticipating others will come forward,” Zaner said.   Zach Hiner, executive director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), lauded Verti for filing a civil lawsuit.

“SNAP stands with Scott and applauds his bravery and courage as he seeks to hold the Church accountable for the abuse and cover-up he suffered,” Hiner said. “We hope that Scott’s example will provide hope and encouragement to other survivors throughout Colorado, and we are confident that his speaking out today will encourage others to speak out tomorrow.”

Complaint and images of the victim, priest and other correlating visuals and documents can be downloaded here.

Rev. Timothy J. Evans’ Assignment History (Source: Official Catholic Directory) 1993: Ordained 1994-1996: Spirit of Christ Parish, Arvada, CO (Denver Archdiocese) 1997-1998: Our Lady of Fatima Church, Lakewood, CO (Denver Archdiocese) 1999-2003: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Fort Collins, CO (Denver Archdiocese) 2002: Leaves St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church 2003: Removed from priesthood/active ministry, sent to counseling after harassing an adult male parishioner 2007: Named in civil lawsuit, case settled 2008 May 2007: Sentenced to 14 years to life, with 4+ years added for another case 2013: Laicized 2019: Rev. Timothy Evans is included in Oct. 22, 2019, Colorado Attorney General’s report Dec 2019: Fr. Evans denied parole July 2020: Granted parole.

About the Plaintiff’s attorneys:   Kurt Zaner is a Denver personal injury attorney that has dedicated his career to representing injured parties.

Zaner has secured multi-million settlements and verdicts on behalf of his clients, including a $16 million verdict on behalf of a father of three diagnosed with the crippling neurological condition after an electrical box exploded, making it the largest premises liability verdict in Colorado history.

Zaner is invited to speak across the country on successful legal strategies and trial practices. He is assisted by attorney Mara Essick at his firm.

Leander L. James, IV, is a veteran trial attorney with a nationwide practice and offices in New York City and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. James has secured hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts on behalf of injured parties and abuse victims in cases against Catholic dioceses and other religious organizations.

James is a founding shareholder of James Vernon and Weeks, P.A. He is assisted by his associate Brady Espeland.

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