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No Liability for Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese in Abuse Case

Downtown Grand Rapids
City of Grand Rapids, Planning Dept.
Grand Rapids' downtown riverfront.

The Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese isn't liable for a sexual relationship between a high school tutor and a student, the Michigan state appeals court said in affirming a decision by a Kent County judge.

Church and school officials had no knowledge of the relationship between Abigail Simon and a teen boy in 2013, even if there were concerns among staff about how she publicly acted with students at Catholic Central and West Catholic high schools, the court said.

Simon, now 38, turned down a plea deal and was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

She was sentenced to at least eight years in prison and is eligible for parole in 2022.

The victim, who was a 15-year-old Catholic Central student, filed a lawsuit against the diocese and school officials, alleging negligence and liability.

The appeals court affirmed a decision by Judge George Quist in favor of the defendants.

"Simon's personal space and professionalism issues failed to convey an unmistakable propensity to sexually abuse minors and cannot be considered an inevitable prelude to criminal sexual conduct," the court said Tuesday.

Simon acknowledged having sex with the student, but she claimed that he had coerced and intimidated her. A prosecutor at her trial called that defense "garbage."

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