Greek Orthodox Archdiocese settles Jacksonville sex suit

Author: Paul Pinkham
Date Published: 05/07/2009

Priest remains suspended, denies any liability in parishioner’s claims

The national Greek Orthodox Archdiocese announced Thursday it has settled the remaining claims of a man who said he was sexually assaulted by a Jacksonville priest who later tried to adopt him.

Most terms of the settlement were confidential. The announcement on the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s Internet site says there was no finding of fault or liability against the organization.

The announcement also says the accused priest remains suspended from all church duties.

The Very Rev. Nicholas T. Graff had been at St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church on Atlantic Boulevard until his 2007 suspension. The suspension wasn’t a condition of the settlement but public announcement of it was, said archdiocese attorney Charles Pillans.

Graff, the church and the archdiocese were sued in 2007 by a man, now 23, and his family. They said Graff exhibited obsessive and inappropriate interest in him from adolescence, showered him with gifts, induced him to move into the priest’s home and sexually assaulted him.

The lawsuit also said Graff offered the man’s mother $300,000 to surrender her parental rights and tried to adopt him.

The allegations against the archdiocese dealt with its role in the assignment and supervision of Graff and its handling of previous abuse allegations.

The family’s attorney, Helen Spohrer, said her clients are pleased the case has been resolved.

Graff’s attorney, Thomas Fallis, said the priest wasn’t involved in the settlement. His suspension is an internal church matter, Fallis said.

“Father Graff was dismissed from this suit months ago when the insurance company settled with the church, and no monies were expended on his behalf,” Fallis said. “He adamantly denies any liability at all.”

No criminal charges have ever been filed in the case.