Ex-parishioners suit accuses priest of attack

Author: Stephanie Innes
Date Published: 04/24/2008

Ex-parishioner’s suit accuses priest of attack

In a lawsuit his lawyer calls “a total outrage,” the priest who led Tucson’s only Greek Orthodox church for three decades has been accused by one unidentified woman of sexual assault.

A former parishioner at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Midtown made the claim against the Rev. Anthony Moschonas. No criminal charges have been filed against Moschonas.

The parishioner, identified in the lawsuit as “Jane Doe,” said the alleged sexual contact occurred during a trip to Athens, Greece — a trip she says the priest gave her as a gift for her 18th birthday.

The lawsuit does not give a time frame for the alleged assault, nor does it give a current age for the woman. She filed her civil suit March 13 in Pima County Superior Court.

A representative of Goldberg & Osborne in Tucson, the law firm representing the woman, said in an e-mail that the woman is now 19 years old and lives in Pima County. The law firm said the incident occurred in the summer of 2007.

The woman is seeking compensation for what she claims was battery, assault and emotional distress. The suit said she suffered physical and emotional injuries.

In the lawsuit, her attorneys said they are withholding the woman’s name because of her desire for anonymity.
Moschonas, who led the church for three decades before retiring in 2004, denies the allegations.

“It’s opportunistic, to say the least,” Moschonas’ lawyer, Jim Stuehringer, said of the lawsuit. “It’s a total outrage. Father Anthony is innocent.”

Stuehringer said his client is looking forward to proving his innocence in court.

He said another fact supporting Moschonas’ innocence is that the FBI investigated the case and the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona said she could neither confirm or deny that her office reviewed the case.

Jane Doe is also accusing St. Demetrios Church, 1145 E. Fort Lowell Road, of negligent hiring and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit said Jane Doe attended St. Demetrios for 10 years and Moschonas developed a friendship with her and with her family.

Officials with St. Demetrios issued a prepared statement in response to the lawsuit: “Father Anthony Moschonas was assigned to our parish from 1974 until he retired in June 2004.

“During his time in our parish, no such allegations were ever made against Father Moschonas. We will cooperate with the process and pray for all involved.”

Moschonas is known in Tucson for founding the annual Greek Festival and setting up the Hellenic Cultural Foundation to promote Greek education.

He has also been instrumental in helping to establish two Greek monasteries in Arizona: one in Florence and another in Cochise County; and he has ministered to members of the military at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista.