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Negotiations continue with friar's alleged victims
By: WJAC Web Staff
BLAIR COUNTY, Pa. --
The bishop of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese has responded to a judge's call for lawsuits to be filed in a child sex abuse case involving a Franciscan friar.
Last week, a Blair County judge called on Altoona lawyer Richard Serbin to file complaints in the Brother Stephen Baker case within 30 days.
Baker was a Franciscan friar and a former athletic trainer at Bishop McCort High School. The subject of child abuse investigations in Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, Baker lived at St. Bernadine Monastery in Hollidaysburg when he committed suicide on Jan. 26.
Earlier this year, Serbin filed notices of pending lawsuits in at least seven cases of suspected child abuse involving Baker. But it's been more than 120 days, and still no formal lawsuits have filed.
Friday, the bishop of the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, the Rev. Mark Bartchak, said the reason for the delay in lawsuits is that the diocese has been negotiating with Serbin to settle the cases out of court.
Bartchak issued the following statement in response to Blair County President Judge Jolene Kopriva's recent orders to Serbin to file complaints Baker case within 30 days.
"The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown and Attorney Richard Serbin have been working to amicably resolve complaints of alleged abuse at the hands of Brother Stephen Baker. The parties believe that it would serve everyone's interest to devote time and resources to resolving the claims as opposed to engaging in formal litigation. We are optimistic that we can continue to work together to reach a fair and appropriate resolution. Please be assured of my continued prayers for everyone affected in this matter and for all victims of sexual abuse in our society," the statement read.
Serbin also confirmed with 6 News that he is in discussions with the diocese to settle the cases out of court. Serbin said that those talks are ongoing and nothing has been settled yet.
Stay with 6 News and WJACTV.com for continuing coverage.