Bridgeport Priest Named In Sixth Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

Victim was an altar boy in the 70s and 80s when assaults occurred

Father Walter Phillip Coleman, who once served as priest of St. Patrick Parish, now known as The Cathedral Parish, of Bridgeport, has been named in yet another sexual abuse lawsuit.

To date, five victims have accused Coleman of sexual abuse dating back to the late 1970s and early 1980s. Now, a sixth victim has come forward.

"Father Coleman was sexually exploiting, assaulting, and abusing minor children in his parish for years, with impunity," said Atty. Jason Tremont, of the Bridgeport-based law firm Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney. "Parents and guardians entrusted their children to the care and protection of the church. Rather than protect them, Father Coleman violated them physically, morally and spiritually."

Tremont's firm currently has represented six victims whose claims against Coleman and the Diocese of Bridgeport, and is aware of other complaints as well.

"The Diocese of Bridgeport, which was responsible for supervising Father Coleman's behavior, allowed and encouraged him to have unchaperoned, one-on-one contact with minor parishioners, in secluded places on and off church premises. Moreover, the diocese systematically covered up sexual misconduct by its priests so as to further endanger minor children such as the current plaintiff," Tremont said.

The current lawsuit was filed in Bridgeport Superior Court against the diocese, the priest and the parish. "The plaintiff and his family were observant Catholics and placed great trust in church leaders. The minor child viewed the priest who abused him as next to God in holiness," said Tremont.

Coleman, who has been residing in Florida for close to 20 years, still volunteered in at least two known churches in Florida even after the first allegations were filed against him. A Pastoral Bulletin from the Archdiocese of Miami has a warning that "Rev. Walter Philip Coleman (Diocese of Bridgeport) does not enjoy the faculties of the Archdiocese of Miami."

As early as 1976, before the abuse occurred to the victim in this lawsuit, the Diocese had received complaints about Coleman and his relationship with under age boys.

Coleman served at St. Teresa's Church in Trumbull from 1960-1966 and at St. Maurice's church, Stamford 1966-1968. He then served at St. Joseph's Church in Danbury, St. Aloysius Church, New Canaan, St. Thomas Church, Fairfield, before joining St. Patrick's Church in Bridgeport in 1976.

From 1983 to 1987 he was at St. Joseph's Church, Brookfield and then Immaculate High School, Danbury, Central Catholic High School, Norwalk, Sacred Heart Church, Georgetown and then St. Joseph's Manor, Trumbull, from 1991-1993 when he was assigned to St. Margaret March Church, Shelton.

In the mid-1990s, the Diocese paid the family of at least one child a confidential settlement but nevertheless allowed Coleman to continue serving as a priest.

Coleman's last known address is Pompano Beach, Fla.

The law firm currently has other court cases pending against the Diocese of Bridgeport as a result of sexual molestation by priests Robert Morrisey, James Gildea, and Martin Federici, all of whom had been previously named in other claims.

"Over the years our firm has represented 95 victims who were abused by priests within the Diocese of Bridgeport alone. These victims have named 35 priests as their abusers and have identified at least 30 different parishes and institutions where the abuse occurred," Tremont said. The firm continues to represent victims of sexual abuse and has represented over 200 victims against religious institutions.

Atty. Cindy Robinson of Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney has also recently filed five lawsuits on behalf of former students of Robert Martinez, a physical education teacher of Rogers School in Stamford, all of whom were abused in the 1970s and 1980s, and is currently representing other victims of coaches, teachers, and teacher aides in both public and private schools throughout the state of Connecticut. "It is particularly traumatic for these boys who had no choice in their school attendance and equally devastating for the parents who entrusted their children to the school," said Robinson. In addition, the firm has two child molestation cases against former substitute gym teacher James Brown while he was employed at a Newington public school.