Lambs to Slaughter
Around the age of eight, a boy we'll call Sam made a new friend — a man in his early fifties. Rev. Neil Doherty was pastor at St. Vincent Catholic Church, which was across the street from Sam's Margate home.
Sam's family was not religious, and as the boy spent more time with Doherty, it struck his parents as odd. But Sam had trouble controlling his anger, and maybe a mild-mannered priest could be a positive influence.
In 2001, when Sam's violent tendencies landed him in juvenile court, Doherty wrote a letter on his behalf. The priest began by listing his master's degree in divinity as well as psychology training at Harvard and Loyola of Chicago, and continued by describing his counseling work at Catholic Charities and part-time private practice with Fort Lauderdale psychiatrists.
Archdiocese of Miami
Rescuing troubled boys was Doherty's lifelong mission. Sam's parents, he wrote, "can rely on me trying to be a 'good neighbor.' In this particular instance, I have become a sort of 'mentor' to their son."
Florida Panthers v Buffalo Sabres
TicketsSat., Apr. 8, 7:00pm
2017 FAU Baseball Season Tickets
TicketsSat., May. 20, 7:00pm
Fight Time #37
TicketsFri., Jun. 16, 8:00pm
NPC Southern States Bodybuilding Championships vs. NPC Southern States Fitness & Figure Championships
TicketsFri., Jul. 7, 6:00pm
He filled the rest of the letter with psychological jargon about personality disorders that might be the cause of Sam's mercurial behavior, and possible treatments. The tone was humble, deferential, and sensitive. Doherty credited Sam's "intelligence" and called him "a unique human being." More therapy, Doherty wrote, might help Sam in "discovering and accepting his true inner self." Doherty said he had been happy to provide that therapy, for free.
It was the year before the sex abuse scandals erupted in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. To most people, priests were still trustworthy figures. In retrospect, Sam's parents and social workers might seem naive. You can't say the same about the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami. By the time he wrote the letter, Doherty had accumulated 30 years' worth of abuse complaints, each of which followed the same arc: A troubled boy meets the priest for counseling and later accuses him of abuse and providing drugs.
Sam is allegedly one of Doherty's most recent victims. By overlooking reports that the priest was a sexual predator, the archdiocese, it is claimed, made it possible for him to strike again. And again.
North Miami attorney Jeffrey Herman has sued the archdiocese on behalf of 11 of Doherty's alleged victims. That number is far higher than for any other priest in the archdiocese. And considering the many boys Doherty has counseled over the years, Herman expects more claims to surface.
"[If] your kid was having drug or behavior problems and you called the archdiocese," Herman says, "they sent your kid to Neil Doherty — which was the worst place he could go."
A native of coastal Massachusetts, Doherty moved with his family to Lake Worth in the late Fifties. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami. Standing six feet three inches tall, he made a towering figure at the altar. He seemed even taller in his vestments because of the authority they conferred.
Before Doherty became a priest, his superiors questioned whether he had the necessary qualities. In June 1968, as Doherty neared his subdioconate — the order necessary to become a priest — records show that seminary officials learned of strains between Doherty and his family. They sent him to psychological counseling.
The priest assigned to evaluate Doherty, Rev. Rene H. Gracida, ruled that Doherty was "unsatisfactory." Had the archdiocese followed its own standards, Doherty would have been turned away from the priesthood then. But for reasons that are unclear in archdiocese records, he remained on the pastoral track.
In February 1969, as Doherty approached his ordination, Gracida authored a memo that contained a grudging endorsement. "I consider Mr. Doherty a very intelligent and complex individual," he wrote. "I cannot ascribe logical reasons for my doubts concerning his fitness for ordination." Gracida cited Doherty's "late hours and heavy drinking," but he wrote that he was most worried about the young seminarian's "obsessive preoccupation with psychology." That, Gracida mused, might have been Doherty's true calling. Though he supported ordination for Doherty, Gracida attached a caveat: "I merely wish to express serious doubts as to his fitness and as to his probable chances for achieving stability and happiness in the priesthood." A few months later, in May 1969, Doherty was ordained.
In short time, there were more reasons for doubt. In 1971, police raided a halfway house for troubled youth in Palm Beach County, based on allegations of widespread drug use. Doherty had a supervisory role there. A priest who'd been assigned to share a home with Doherty in Riviera Beach, Rev. Martin Cassidy, had contacted higherups to advise that Doherty should be kept away from drug rehabilitation facilities.
In April 1972, Cassidy made another report, informing Archbishop Coleman F. Carroll that Doherty, then 29 years old, had legally adopted a "young adolescent" named Gary Davis, who slept in Doherty's bedroom. Judging by church records produced in civil suits, Carroll, who had held his title since the archdiocese formed in 1958, did not order an investigation or take disciplinary measures. Shortly after Cassidy reported his concerns, however, Doherty received a new assignment, at Saint Anthony Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale.
Doherty, who is under house arrest in Palm Beach County awaiting trial on sexual battery charges related to Sam and another boy, could not be reached for comment. His attorney, David Bogenschutz, declined to answer questions about the case, saying "his side of the story will be told to a jury."
The Archdiocese of Miami did not respond to a list of questions about Doherty, citing legal concerns. Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta furnished a statement saying only that the archdiocese had an "ongoing appeal for anyone who has been a victim of abuse by a church member to contact the archdiocese's hotline," with a toll-free number, 866-802-2873.
Most of the boys Doherty counseled are now men, but as is customary, their identities have not been disclosed in public court filings.
One of them, whom we'll call Kevin, says he was referred to Doherty through the Catholic Services Bureau, which helps provide shelter and counseling for troubled children, especially those whose parents have substance abuse problems. Court records are unclear about Kevin's age when he met Doherty; all they say are that the boy's mother was an alcoholic prone to violent rages, which caused so much stress that Kevin had difficulty concentrating in school.
In a 2005 interview with Det. Eric Hendel of the Broward Sheriff's Office, Kevin told of his first meeting with Doherty, in 1973, the year after the priest left Riviera Beach. Kevin was surprised Doherty wore "sports clothes," he said, rather than the typical white collar, black shirt, and pants. Doherty told him not to bother calling him "Father Neil," Kevin explained, and encouraged use of the name Gus, which Doherty said he used with adult friends. Kevin was even more surprised when Doherty asked if he was sexually active. "I had grown up with a rather strict Roman Catholic family," Kevin told the detective. "This, to me, was a totally new brand of priest."
The boy met with Doherty twice a week. One day, the priest took out his car keys and flashed a smile. "We're going to skip a session," Kevin recalled him saying. With that, they drove to a house he remembers being "on the waterways somewhere."
Doherty opened a liquor cabinet and lit a joint. "I took a few puffs of that," said Kevin. "I was drinking bourbon. I didn't have a high tolerance at that time, so after two or three drinks, I reached a point where I was getting almost ready to pass out. He directed me toward a large bedroom."
There Kevin fell asleep, and when he awoke, "I remember feeling sexually aroused.... [Doherty] was on the bed with me, performing oral sex on me."
Kevin recalled being "absolutely terrified." But he was too groggy to resist. "I was aware enough that I realized this was a priest," he said. "This was a person who had me in therapy. I was very confused and scared and stayed silent."
He told police that next, Doherty flipped him on his stomach and sodomized him.
Over the next four years, said Kevin, there were "several dozen instances of sex" between Doherty and himself. "I knew I was going to him because I was having emotional problems," Kevin said, but those problems multiplied exponentially. "I was confused. I was angry. I was disappointed. I was disillusioned."
Kevin finally broke off contact with Doherty around 1977, he said, after he was approached by an 18-year-old man who said he'd been having sex with Doherty since he was 11.
At least three other men have accused Doherty of abusing them during his time at Saint Anthony in the Seventies.
Much like Kevin, one boy, whom we'll call Andy, was referred to Doherty in 1975 because he was disobeying his parents. Soon the chats with the pastor became a pleasant diversion from Andy's fourth-grade lessons, he told Detective Hendel in 2005. Before long, Doherty opened a file cabinet where he kept marijuana, sleeping pills, and Quaaludes.
Soon their conversations broached a mysterious adult subject: sex. "He had a really bizarre attitude toward women," Andy said. "He would talk about inserting objects into their vaginas and pouring lead into their vaginas to determine if they were a witch."
Doherty had a different perspective on boys. "He said the church frowned on homosexuality," Andy recalled, "but that would probably change once they discovered cum tastes good.... I just thought it was fascinating. Is that what the world is all about? My parents never told me about this."
The priest invited Andy on field trips, purportedly to visit Doherty's mother in West Palm Beach. But the woman was never home, Andy said. They would "sit around, watch TV, smoke marijuana, take pills, and drink beer," he explained. Andy passed out, and when he awoke, he had pain in his rectum. This happened at least three times, he told police.
At age 14, Andy broke into Doherty's apartment and stole the keys to the priest's car. He didn't see the man after that.
Another boy, whom we'll call Chris, said he was nine when he met Doherty through the Catholic Services Bureau. Like Andy and Kevin, Chris was referred because of behavior problems in school. During their sessions, when Doherty asked about homosexuality, Chris expressed disgust, saying he'd kill any man who made a move on him; an adult neighbor had already assaulted him.
Chris, who formed a drug habit before he became a teenager, bounced between Boys Town in west Miami and juvenile halls. Doherty always seemed to turn up. Chris thought it was cool that this priest had posters of rock bands on his walls. And, he told a detective, "He was teaching me to drive a car — you know, the things that a boy would want a father figure to do." In his early teens, he visited Doherty at a home in Coconut Grove, he said, and the priest gave him marijuana.
At age 15 or 16, Chris escaped from a reform school and Doherty offered him a place to stay. After a night of drinking and smoking pot, Chris passed out. When he woke in the middle of the night, Doherty was molesting him. "I just laid there frozen," he told police. "This person I had trusted with my entire life ... violated me, and there is nothing I could do about it."
After Doherty finished, Chris lay awake, listening. "I waited until he went to bed. I got up and I left, and I never saw him again." In 1979, Chris was sent to prison for seven years for crimes not disclosed in the public file.
Neither Chris nor Andy told anyone about the abuse, they said — not their parents, not even their friends. "It's not a very cool thing to talk about," says Andy, who recently agreed to be interviewed by phone. "When you're a young person, you want to be accepted, to not have people look at you like you're a weirdo."
In 1979, there came another abuse report: a boy who said Doherty drugged and molested a 16-year-old friend. At a deposition last year, Herman, the victims' attorney, handed Monsignor Rev. Tomas M. Marin, the chancellor of the archdiocese, a copy of the April 1979 memo that contained the accusation. He asked Marin what the proper response to that report should have been. Marin answered, "Investigate the allegations and see if they were true or not."
Herman pounced, reminding Marin that the report ought to have been given to the police, not investigated internally by the church. Marin disagreed, saying "there [was] no policy in 1979 that we had to report it."
But there was a law: Florida Statute 415.504, which requires persons with knowledge or suspicions of child abuse to report them to the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services. "What if I told you there was a law that said you had to report it," Herman said. "Would that change your opinion?"
"It would possibly change my opinion," Marin said.
The report of the 16-year-old, plus another allegation that Doherty molested a six-year-old, prompted an investigation by the archdiocese. Ultimately Marin's own review of archdiocese records found no interviews of victims or Doherty — only a consultation with a psychiatrist and a background check to ascertain whether Doherty had ever been arrested in Broward County (he had not). The investigation was closed.
If you've been abused by a priest in South Florida, Jeffrey Herman is the guy you call. Herman grew up in a Jewish family in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland. In his forties, he has a weightlifter's shoulders and an eager, energetic demeanor. On days he's not in court, he ditches the suit for jeans and vintage T-shirts.
So far, Herman has settled five cases involving Rev. Neil Doherty and has six more that are pending. He has also sued the archdiocese based on reports of abuse by 15 other priests.
The Catholic Church has become a jackpot for Herman, who reasons it's the church's own fault. "From my perspective, secrecy is a hallmark of the church," he says. "You have this imbalance of power where priests are the parish's connection to God. They have a mandate to keep secrets, to protect the church from scandal. And that was their priority — not protecting children."
In recent years, Herman has learned how sexual abuse causes victims to feel shame and to feel as if they are controlled by forces stronger than themselves. Since the criminal courts' statute of limitations has lapsed for alleged victims of abuse in the Seventies and Eighties, the civil courts are the only venue to seek justice. "By coming forward and filing a civil lawsuit, they're taking power back in their lives," says Herman. "Victims have told me this is part of the healing process. By holding the church accountable, they realize, 'This is not my fault.'"
A central issue in the Doherty cases and in those of other priests is the standard by which the Catholic Church has traditionally judged priests' guilt, called "moral certainty." It's similar to a criminal jury's instruction to convict only when evidence suggests guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Handled internally by the church, abuse complaints boil down to a priest's word against a child's. In Doherty's case, those children were almost always from checkered backgrounds. That appears to have made it difficult for the church to establish Doherty's guilt.
Herman argues that even if the individual boys who claimed Doherty abused them lacked credibility, the sheer volume of reports, combined with their similarity — drugged and then raped — established a pattern. "If you're not going to remove a priest until you have moral certainty, you're going to expose kids to a grave risk," says Herman. "In my opinion, the only thing certain about Doherty is that he was going to abuse more kids."
As he shuffles into a conference room in a jail jumpsuit, Jorge Soler no longer looks like the boy he was when he met Father Doherty. He doesn't even seem like the young man who was booked at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, off Doral Boulevard in Miami. When he posed for his mug shot, he had a finely trimmed goatee. Now, age 32, his beard is thick and covers nearly his whole face.
Soler grew up in Little Haiti during the early Eighties, when drugs and crime made the sidewalks a menacing place. He was the youngest of five children in a poor family. Soler tried drugs even before he met Doherty, in 1983 at age nine. The priest had been sent to his home as an outreach counselor. Soon the boy was placed in Miami Bridge, a youth shelter then on NW South River Drive.
The abuse began immediately.
Doherty would pick him up and take him shopping for new shoes, shorts, and jeans before they were joined by two other boys, both named Victor, says Soler. One was of Colombian descent, the other Puerto Rican. Doherty served them drinks that Soler thinks were drugged, possibly with valium or Quaaludes. "He turned me onto drugs by not telling me he was giving me drugs," Soler says with a bitter smile.
Then Doherty assaulted the trio, he says. On some occasions, another priest — who was a junior pastor at St. Mary's Cathedral, possibly a seminarian — was also present. That priest, says Soler, took nude photographs of the boys and joined Doherty in raping them.
He remembers riding in Doherty's car, the priest drunk or high on valium, scanning Biscayne Boulevard for a boy who would turn a trick. Doherty, says Soler, had no interest in men. "If they were over 18, he didn't want to mess with them."
Sometimes, when he visited Doherty, Soler says, he'd be given $200. Other times, "it was hard to get a dollar out of him," even when Soler was willing to trade sexual favors.
The abuse first came to light in 1983, during a counseling session with Dr. Simon Miranda, a court-appointed therapist. Soler began weeping and finally described how Doherty abused him. Archdiocese documents show Miranda immediately reported Soler's allegation to Archbishop Edward McCarthy, but no investigation followed.
Four years later, Soler sought out Doherty at the archdiocese pastoral center. "I wanted money for drugs," says Soler. "He had said if I ever needed money to call him, but he was ignoring me."
Doherty was not at the pastoral center. Desperate, the 15-year-old boy resorted to blackmail. He informed a nun, Sister Joyce Newton, that he had had sex with Doherty, who had given him a venereal disease. Newton phoned Doherty, who instructed her to give Soler money from the center's petty cash drawer just to get rid of him.
This time there would be an investigation, by the archdiocese chancellor, Gerard T. LaCerra. But documents subpoenaed in a civil suit that Soler has filed against the archdiocese suggest LaCerra's investigation was biased. Soler's attorney, Herman, says it was "a fraud" and "a sham."
Indeed even though a new victim had materialized, the chancellor took Doherty's side, alleging Soler was "an acknowledged homosexual prostitute and drug dealer."
In August 1992, a letter forwarded to LaCerra by Archbishop McCarthy began with a familiar refrain: "Our son was given drugs, Quaaludes in excess — and then raped by Father Neil Doherty, presently pastor of St. Vincent Parish in Margate, Fla."
The letter tells of how a boy whom we'll call Tony had been an A student at a Fort Lauderdale high school in 1978 when his parents went to meet with Doherty, then the pastor at Saint Anthony, about counseling their son. "He absolutely charmed us," Tony's parents wrote. "So you can imagine how easy it was for Father Doherty to hide behind his authority as a priest and ... to take advantage of a mentally ill, gullible 17-year-old boy. It was leading a lamb to slaughter."
Tony's parents alleged Doherty "brainwashed" their son — who was straight — into believing he was gay. On at least one occasion, said the parents, Doherty took Tony to a Palm Beach motel, where the priest drugged and raped him.
Then the boy dropped out of high school and ran away from home. It would be five years before Tony's parents would see him again. He had moved out of the region, was deeply depressed, and was leading what his parents called a "hand-to-mouth existence."
LaCerra offered the boy counseling but was rejected. Doherty was sent for psychological treatment at the Institute of Living, a Hartford, Connecticut resortlike clinic that is a frequent destination for troubled priests. There a doctor recommended the archdiocese issue a "temporary suspension from [Doherty's] duties while further investigation is taking place."
LaCerra wrote a letter in response saying he thought they had agreed Doherty would simply "take time off to work on personal issues." In the most chilling passage, he added, "If perchance your report would ever be placed under subpoena, the archdiocese could look quite negligent for not having immediately removed Fr. Doherty from his pastoral assignment."
Ultimately Doherty was allowed to choose a counselor — a friend — who suggested the archdiocese accept the priest's "candid and forthright assertions of his innocence."
Apparently it did just that.
Eventually the archdiocese discounted Tony's claims and characterized him and his parents as extortionists. In 1994, after the family threatened to take the story to the media, the archdiocese paid Tony's parents $50,000 in exchange for a promise not to sue.
In 2003, while conducting research for a criminal case against Doherty, prosecutors turned up evidence for criminal charges against the archdiocese, for being negligent in allowing Doherty to continue counseling boys, after it had already received abuse reports. A prosecutor informed the archdiocese that it might have filed a case had the statute of limitations not already lapsed. LaCerra died in July 2000, and Archbishop McCarthy passed away in June 2005. Doherty, meanwhile, returned to St. Vincent in Margate to resume counseling boys.
By the late Nineties, Doherty had every reason to feel invincible. A slew of boys had come forward to report abuse but not a single charge had stuck.
At roughly the same time the archdiocese reached its settlement with Tony's family, it was welcoming a new archbishop, Rev. John C. Favalora, who had held that position at dioceses in Alexandria, Louisiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida.
Favalora was greeted by a disturbing report from a group of parishioners at St. Vincent who were upset with Doherty. The group had written Archbishop McCarthy alleging Doherty was stealing from the church till and that he'd placed a known male prostitute on the payroll. The parishioners hoped that Archbishop Favalora would investigate.
He assigned Marin, who had inherited LaCerra's role as chancellor. Marin's investigation cleared Doherty of wrongdoing. In 1995, the chancellor drafted a letter, to be read at a Sunday service and bearing Favalora's signature, describing how the archbishop had examined the parishioners' report but that two audits found no evidence of financial impropriety and that "Likewise, [Favalora] examined personal accusations made against Father Doherty and found them baseless" — an apparent reference to the report involving the male prostitute.
But in depositions last year, Marin said the investigation focused on only the financial charges. He claimed to be unaware of the allegation about a prostitute, and although Favalora became archbishop the same month and year, December 1994, the archdiocese settled its case with Tony's family, both Favalora and Marin said they were unaware of the $50,000 payment.
;"And do you know whether they did?" Herman asked.
"No, I don't," Favalora said.
In Marin's deposition, Herman asked the monsignor whether the settlement combined with the long history of abuse allegations in Doherty's personnel file ought to have warranted a more thorough investigation of the Margate pastor.
"Hindsight is 20/20," Marin replied.
That doesn't bring an ounce of comfort to Sam, who speaks through a clenched jaw on a mid-March afternoon at a coffee shop in Margate, not far from the place he says he first met Doherty.
Sam, who agreed to speak with New Times on condition his identity not be revealed, says he was in fourth grade and playing football near his home, across the street from St. Vincent's parking lot and landscaped courtyard. When he stepped away from the game to smoke a cigarette, the eight-year-old saw Doherty's tall form emerge from a car and walk toward him.
"I hid my cigarette — like cuffed it," says Sam, "and [Doherty] says, 'No, man, if you want to smoke, it's not that big of a deal.' He was trying to be the cool adult. He was trying to gain my trust that way — and it worked."
The two struck up a friendship, and it progressed quickly. "We would talk for hours and hours about my beliefs," says Sam. "He is a very intelligent man. He was my friend at first. Then he was my mentor. Then he was my father. And it went from that to the abuse."
It would be awhile before Sam's parents learned of their son's new friend, and when they did, they didn't approve. But Sam still visited Doherty almost every day, he says.
The priest would pour Sam a soda in a red plastic cup. In a 2005 interview with a police detective, Sam recalled one occasion when after drinking the soda, "I passed out, and I walked out of [Doherty's] house later not remembering what had happened." He had pain in his rectum. Asked by the detective to elaborate, Sam responded irritably: "I felt as if I'd been fucked in my ass."
Sam found a wad of money in his pocket but couldn't recall how it got there. The rest of the details follow the same path as those of boys 20 years before: alcohol and drugs leading to blackouts and waking to Doherty in the midst of his assault.
It was the end of Sam's childhood. He was no longer interested in BMX racing or playing war games with kids on the same cul-de-sac. He was depressed, and Doherty recommended drugs. "I'd get angry all the time, and he said to drink beer and smoke pot because it would lessen my anger," says Sam. But those chemical effects made him yearn for uppers, "which is when I took coke."
Sam's family was not wealthy — his allowance was five dollars a week, and he dressed in hand-me-downs that his older brother got from a thrift store — but he says Doherty was willing to finance his drug habit, which had progressed to heroin. The priest visited Sam when his misbehavior led to his placement in a juvenile home. After Sam was sent to prison for having an illegal weapon and dealing drugs, he lost touch with Doherty.
Thanks in part to the counseling he received while incarcerated, Sam says, he came to understand how Doherty's abuse had affected his life — how it was at the root of his depression and his chemical addictions.
Sam has a vivid memory of a night not long after his release from prison, when he was walking along NW 18th Street, near St. Vincent Church. "I was trashed ... fucked up on OxyContin," says Sam. "And he approached me." By then, Sam had taken to carrying a knife to better defend himself in the rough crowds where he lived. "I was so filled with rage, I pulled my knife. I shined the blade in the streetlight so he could see it. I said, 'If you come near me, I'll kill you.'"
Doherty backed off. Sam hasn't seen him since. If there's a next time, it might be in a criminal trial.
In 2002, after the scandal broke in the Boston archdiocese, Monsignor Marin conducted an inventory of abuse charges against active priests in the Miami archdiocese, which finally put Doherty on administrative leave. In 2004, Doherty retired.
Today St. Vincent is led by Rev. Joseph Maroor, who conducts mass with a cheerful, earnest demeanor. On a Sunday in March, about 400 parishioners fill the pews of the T-shape church. During his sermon, Maroor speaks about how in the moments before mass, he entered the sacristy and saw an elderly man holding a sign. "It said, 'Don't tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big your God is,'" Maroor beamed. "What a wonderful truth!"
It'll take a big God to get the Catholic Church out of its current fix. Herman is not allowed to say how much his clients have received in settlements so far, nor would he estimate how much he expects to win on unsettled cases, saying only that "millions" would be a fair characterization.
Kevin, the boy referred to Doherty for counseling related to his alcoholic mother, did not tell anyone about having had sex with the priest until a few years ago, when he saw an article about him being sued by another victim. Kevin told police that in the decades since the abuse, he's thought about Doherty every day.
Andy, another Seventies-era victim who had been impressed by Doherty's willingness to speak with him about adult subjects, no longer lives in the area. "It really ruined my life for a long time," he says of the abuse. Like other victims, he has battled addiction and he has had trouble keeping jobs and building relationships. Now he says he's clean, employed, and engaged to be married.
Jorge Soler's life after Doherty has followed a more tragic path. He has accumulated a long rap sheet of theft and drug offenses. He's awaiting trial on charges of credit card theft and stealing a car. He says his attorney has negotiated a plea deal that would give him about five years in prison, but Soler, a recovering crack and heroin addict, says he has made progress in drug treatment and is holding out hope for a program that would give him a measure of freedom in exchange for close monitoring of drug abuse.
Soler is Baptist now. That faith, plus his family, which includes a 10-year-old daughter, are enough to stave off the thoughts of suicide that have plagued him for as long as he can remember, he says. Asked whether he thought Doherty's religious faith was genuine, he shakes his head. "That's a disguise," he says of the priestly garments Doherty wore. "He doesn't care about nothing. Going around raping little kids: That's his belief."
Two other alleged victims whose accounts were not included in public files are also in jail — one for grand theft and armed burglary and the other for murder.
For Sam — the victim who once flashed a knife at the priest — the shame of having been raped by Doherty made him resolve, a few years ago, to kill himself. At that time, he had never told a soul about what had happened, he says. He called a friend and told her of Doherty's abuse, saying it was the reason he was going to commit suicide. For the first time in a decade, Sam wept. His friend persuaded him not to follow through — to live — if for no other reason than to see Doherty receive justice. Today Sam is the one victim whose case forms the basis for the criminal charges that could put Doherty, now age 63, in prison for the rest of his life.
"It's pretty much retribution," says Sam, taking a drag on a cigarette. "There's no making it okay. I don't think if he was beaten in public and dragged naked through the streets so people could throw rocks at him it would be okay."
But seeing Doherty punished would make it just a little easier for him — and, he guesses, other victims — to get through the day.
Sam hasn't had a good night's sleep in 10 years, he says; Doherty constantly appears in his nightmares. In his dreams, he acts out elaborate revenge fantasies, such as the one in which he uses a rusty shovel to decapitate Doherty.
As a reaction to the abuse, he's hardened himself, he says. When strangers say hello, he ignores them. He still carries a weapon, though now it's only a bat or a nightstick instead of a gun or a knife. He only recently broke off ties to a white supremacist group. Sam has come across ruthless people, but he calls Doherty "the only monster I've ever met in my life."
With evident pride, Sam says, "I'm not a nice person." He describes himself as an agnostic. Asked whether he believes in Heaven and Hell, he says, "I would like to believe there's a Heaven, but I doubt it." Eyes flashing, he adds, "And if there's anything like Hell, then I'll see him there."
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.