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Four Penobscot tribal members file suit against Roman Catholic Diocese, alleging sexual abuse

Four members of the Penobscot Indian Nation are suing the Roman Catholic Diocese, alleging they were sexually abused by three priests of St. Ann Church on Indian Island.

Kurt D. Francis and an unnamed plaintiff say Father David Cote sexually abused them at sleepovers Cote held for altar boys in 1978. Francis says he wants the church to acknowledge what was done and knows there are other victims on Indian Island that should come forward and not feel ashamed.

"Let them be a symbol of the worst of the coverup and the secrecy an the enabling of the abuse. Let them have their day in court. Let us find out what the Diocese knew and when they knew it so they can be held fully accountable and we can keep our communities safe," says Michael Bigos of Berman and Simmons, the attorney for Francis.

Dale Mitchell Senior has also filed a complaint, alleging Father Marcel Robitaille sexually abused him in 1972. Another anonymous plaintiff alleges that Father Lee Michaud sexually assaulted him in 1987.

"We still have lots of Wabanaki people that go to church and believe in Catholicism, but it's 2023 and people need to know what happened. It's not a dirty little secret. It's a big horrible secret," says Patricia Graffam, sexual assault advocate for the Penobscot Indian Nation.

Robitaille was removed from the ministry in 1993 and has since died. Michaud was removed from the ministry in 2003. Cote retired in 2013. All were reassigned to other churches multiple times.