A 34-year-old man came forward Tuesday to make new sexual abuse allegations against an embattled South Florida priest, Father Rolando Garcia.
Tony Simmons said he was a 16-year-old runaway when he met Garcia at Church of the Little Flower in Hollywood in 1994. A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Miami-Dade County Court says that Father Garcia initially gave him assistance and counseling, but began sexually abusing Simmons after they went to a movie one night.
Garcia later employed him as a painter at the church from 2001 to 2003 while the abuse continued, Simmons said at a news conference he held with attorney Jeff Herman in front of St. Agatha Catholic Church in southwest Miami-Dade. Garcia is currently the pastor of that church.
"He controlled my job, he controlled where I lived. I was trapped. If I didn't do it then, you know, I don’t have a job, and if I don’t have a job, nowhere to live,” Simmons said.
Simmons claims the sexual relationship ended when he joined the U.S. Army in 2003, but he still called the priest.
During a phone conversation last week, Simmons said, Garcia disclosed there was a lawsuit against him, and he realized that "he was not the only one." He then looked up news reports on the Internet about Garcia and found the name of the attorney, Herman, who filed another suit last month.
Last week, another alleged victim said that Garcia tried to cover up the abuse he received from a fellow priest. Herman also represents that man.
Simmons’ lawsuit against the Archdiocese seeks more than $5 million “for damages arising from the sexual abuse of a child by a priest with the Archdiocese of Miami who was a known sexual predator and remains an active priest in the Archdiocese of Miami.”
Garcia has adamantly denied the abuse charges.
“Mr. Herman has filed several lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Miami involving Fr. Garcia, and yet to date, none have been proven credible,” the Archdiocese said in a statement Tuesday.
The Archdiocese said it has not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, but when it does it will look at the allegations and then follow its policy and procedures. They include reporting the allegations to authorities, offering counseling to the alleged victim and the accused, and conducting an internal investigation to determine credibility.
Simmons said he suffered multiple injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder while in the Army. He said he retired from the Army in 2010.
"He's a highly decorated veteran. Who never really saw himself as a victim because he's what we call a compliant victim,” Herman said.