Judge rules hearing over Saints emails will be open

Judge rules hearing over Saints emails will be open

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As an Orleans Civil Court judge ruled local media will have access to a hearing over Saints emails, in court filings, attorneys for alleged child sex abuse victims claim the team pulled community leaders into the handling of the church sex abuse fallout.

Meanwhile, a source close to the Saints and Archdiocese says the allegations are not true.

Attorneys for both the Associated Press and alleged church sex abuse victims argue emails between the Saints and the Archdiocese of New Orleans are of extraordinary public interest because they pertain to the ongoing sexual abuse scandal involving clergy.

There will be a hearing next week on whether those emails will remain confidential. Wednesday in court, media attorneys argued if the AP is allowed in that hearing, all media should be allowed to cover it. Saints attorneys emphasized the contents of the emails should still remain confidential until ruled otherwise.

The Civil Court judge ruled in favor of the media and grated access to the hearing agreeing the case is a matter of significant public concern.

“The arguments of the parties, the intervention by the Associated Press, the fact that the Saints are involved, people care about this issue and they just want to know what’s going on and the judge came down the right way for that reason,” said media attorney Scott Sternberg.

Meanwhile, according to court records filed by attorneys for alleged church sex abuse victims, the Saints, team owner Gayle Benson, and communications executive Greg Bensel were not the only local, influential people involved in helping the Archdiocese manage the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis.

The filings say "the list of organizations and individuals revealed in the documents the Saints and Archdiocese seek to conceal from the public is nothing short of shocking."

A source tells Fox 8, Times Picayune and New Orleans Advocate co-owner John Georges is one of those influential members of the community involved.

“Your source in incorrect,” Georges said by phone Wednesday. “You said a source said that I was one of the members of the media. I had no contact with the Archdiocese during the period in question.”

We spoke with alleged church sex abuse victim John Gianoli. He says now deceased priest Bernard Schmaltz molested him in the 70s when he was 13-years-old. Schmaltz was named on the Archdiocese of New Orleans’s list of credibly accused clergy released in 2018.

"It's scary to think that the New Orleans Saints or other powerful entities in New Orleans would be involved in this," said Gianoli. "The victims of child molestation, typically their lives are shattered, these are scars that last a lifetime, it takes a Herculean effort to right one's life after being put upon this way...We're the David and they're the Goliath in a nut shell.

"In a previous statement on the matter, the Saints said, “The Archdiocese reached out to a number of community and civic minded leaders seeking counsel on handling the pending media attention that would come with the release of the clergy names in November of 2018.”

But, court filings from the plaintiff’s attorneys say, “It appears those leaders were pulled into this situation by the Saints not by anyone at the Archdiocese.”

When we spoke by phone with Georges Wednesday, he wouldn’t answer our question about the Saints.

"Reporter: Did you have any communications with the Saints regarding this issue? Georges: I'm finished, okay."

The court records go on to say, “The Saints PR tentacles were everywhere and there was nothing remotely simple about the advice the Saints were giving.” The filing also says, “It cannot now be disputed that the Saints had actual involvement in the creation of the pedophile list.”

A source close to the Saints and Archdiocese of New Orleans says the allegations are completely false. The source says the Saints were brought to the table later in this process by other civic leaders.

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