A jury awarded a $100 million verdict to a sex abuse victim Thursday against a retired Miami priest who's already behind bars awaiting a criminal trial on sexual battery charges in what the plaintiff's attorney believes may be the first such verdict against a Catholic priest in the country.
Father Neil Doherty, 68, is the subject of numerous sex abuse lawsuits and is being held in Broward County Jail in a separate abuse case. He has pleaded not guilty in the criminal case.
The verdict was handed down in Miami-Dade Circuit Court and is the first obtained against Doherty.
Attorney Jeff Herman, who represents the victim, Andres Susana, said he believes this is the first verdict against a Roman Catholic priest personally.
Susana, 40, spoke to the media during a news conference and said “justice was served.”
“What he did to me is unforgivable and it's something I have to live with for the rest of my life,” Susana said. "Because of the incidents, my life has never been the same. My life has been a rollercoaster ride ever since and it still is."
Susana said that in 1986, when he was 14 years old, Doherty sexually abused him. He came out with his story at the age of 39. By then Doherty was in jail in Broward County on other charges of child sexual abuse.
"It took me many, many years to let the story be known," Susane said.
Herman said his firm alone has filed more than 20 lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Miami involving alleged abuse by Doherty. Herman also added that the alleged abuse goes all the way back to the 1970s and there could be more than 100 victims.