The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, June 30, 2020 1:10 pm

Former New Orleans deacon, 85, dies awaiting rape trial

JIM MUSTIAN | Associated Press

 

A former Roman Catholic deacon awaiting trial on rape charges in New Orleans has died, his defense attorney said Tuesday.

George F. Brignac, 85, had been accused of sexually abusing children for years before being removed from the ministry in 1988.

He was charged last year with first-degree rape after a former altar boy told police Brignac had repeatedly raped him beginning in the late 1970s. Police said the abuse began when the boy was 7 years old and continued until he was 11.

Brignac had been in declining health after suffering a fall in the local jail that “broke his back,” defense attorney Martin Regan said. He had been out on bail and died Monday hours after being hospitalized.

“It is a terrible disappointment,” Regan told The Associated Press. "He fully expected to be acquitted in this case and he was looking forward to going to trial to clear his name.”

Brignac's accusers expressed similar disappointment, even as they acknowledged the challenges prosecutors faced in bringing a decades-old case. There was little physical evidence against Brignac, aside from a collection of love notes and greeting cards he sent the former altar boy when he was a young boy.

Kevin Bourgeois, the local volunteer leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he was saddened for the “scores of men who were denied their day in court to see justice served.”

The Archdiocese of New Orleans settled several lawsuits against Brignac, a longtime teacher, and included him among the more than 50 names of clergy removed from the ministry due to “credible accusations” of sexual abuse.

Church officials removed Brignac from the ministry in 1988 after a 7-year-old boy accused him of fondling him at a Christmas party. That accusation came on top of previous claims that he abused other boys, including one that led to his acquittal in 1978 on three counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile.

But he remained a lay minister in the church and even maintained access to children until 2018, when news reports about his past prompted the church to bar his service.

New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond called Brignac's continued service a “scandal” and apologized to parishioners.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid growing legal costs related to sexual abuse by priests.


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