Man details alleged sex abuse at Jesuit High School
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Tonight, we hear from a man who says a school janitor sexually assaulted him while a priest watched, and we’ll tell you about the nearly half-million-dollar confidential settlement he says he received.
FOX 8 typically doesn't identify sexual assault victims, and at the time of the interview, we chose not to identify Richard Windmann. But he agreed to allow us to report his name and show his face.
Windmann says he was only 12 years old when it started. He lived near Jesuit High School, and he and other neighborhood children loved playing on the school’s basketball court.
“That’s where we were confronted by Pete Modica,” Windmann said. “Initially we were in trouble for being on school property, but he forgave us and he allowed us to play there. That’s how it started.”
Windmann wasn’t a Jesuit student, but he says Modica, a janitor at the school, would bring him on campus often. That’s where he says Modica raped him.
“It started out with oral sex, just Pete Modica, and it graduated to sodomy. I was sodomized,” Windmann said. “...One time it was in the chapel at Jesuit High School, and one of the teachers came in and discovered me and Pete Modica, and he was performing oral sex on me, and I thought it was over. I thought a responsible adult had discovered us. And he yelled, he said, ‘Pete, God (expletive)!’ is what he said. But he never said anything.”
In a separate incident, Windmann says priest and theology teacher Corneilius “Neil” Carr walked in on the sexual abuse.
“Later on, when it graduated to sodomy, Father Cornelius Carr came into Pete’s office and discovered us, and I thought, ‘Wow, the priest knows. Now it’s going to end.’ And he took his hand and put it on my back and said, ‘Relax.’ ...And then he masturbated while Pete was sodomizing me.”
FOX 8 has obtained what appears to be a draft settlement agreement that was faxed to Jesuit High School in November of 2012. The agreement outlines a confidential settlement between Windmann and the school regarding the alleged sexual abuse, where Windmann says he was eventually paid $450,000.
Reporter: “Do you believe there was a cover-up here?"
Windmann: “Absolutely. Look at the documentation. It’s the shut the (expletive) up documentation.”
Reporter: "If there was no cover-up, they would have never asked you to sign such a document, would they?”
Windmann says the abuse happened over the course of two years. While he can’t recall exact dates, he believes it happened in the late 70s from the time he was 12 until he was 14 years old.
“You get older, and you finally refuse to do it,” Windmann said. “And they tell you, ‘Well, I will kill your mom.’”
Reporter: “Is that what Pete Modica and Father Carr told you?”
Windmann: “That’s what Pete Modica told me.”
Reporter: “That he would kill your mother?”
Windmann says the abuse finally stopped once he was older and he didn’t believe the threats anymore. He told his mother and father what happened.
“He didn’t look at me the same way anymore, never in the eye, and he stopped coming around,” Windmann said of his dad. "...My mom went into a very, very deep depression. I saw her age before my eyes in just a couple of years, and she never was the same way again. ...It destroyed them. It destroyed them.”
It wasn’t until 2012 that Windmann decided to come forward when news of the Penn State sex abuse scandal broke and assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of sex crimes against young boys.
“The Sandusky case was the tipping point for me," Windmann said. "It was the catalyst for me coming forward. At that point, I saw the revolt and I couldn’t be silent anymore.”
Windmann decided to email the then-president of Jesuit, Father Raymond Fitzgerald, because he says he needed counseling.
“When you go through the process, they make you go through a psychologist that they hire that works with the Jesuits, and they do that for their due diligence to find out if you are credible or not," Windmann said. "And if they determine that you are credible, then you go into mediation and a settlement is worked out.”
We have obtained an audio recording of a meeting between Windmann and Fitzgerald discussing that settlement.
“I would say the first impression that I’ve gotten, this has been confirmed over and over again, that the circumstances of the physical layout, the fact that Modica was bringing neighborhood children onto campus was confirmed. …I was morally convinced that what you told me was true. That’s the basic presumption with which I’m moving forward,” Fitzgerald says on the recording.
Now Windmann has decided to go public with his story. FOX 8 was the only television station to interview him at his home near Fort Worth, Texas.
“At 53 years old, nobody gives a (expletive) that I was raped, but now is the time to protect our children,” Windmann said. “We know about this abuse.”
Modica and Fitzgerald have passed away. Windmann believes Carr has also died. Windmann says he’s still a practicing Catholic. He says he was born Catholic, and will die Catholic.
FOX 8 reached out to Jesuit High School via email and telephone for comment on this story, but we have not heard back. The school did, however, send the following to parents:
Dear Blue Jay Parents,
As many of you have read or heard, a media story today discussed what can only be described as deplorable actions by school employees decades ago. My heart is broken for any victim. Sexual abuse is disgusting, and we reiterate our apology for the hurt and sadness inflicted on any victim in our community.
This afternoon I addressed our faculty, praying for the healing of victims of sexual abuse. A great source of encouragement today has been looking out on the faces of our faculty members, knowing that we have an amazing team committed to Catholic education and protecting the young men entrusted to us.
It is important that you know the steps we take to ensure the safety of your sons. Every employee goes through two independent criminal background checks, state and federal. Additionally, we go through safe environment training. The Jesuits in residence go through these same checks, in addition to annual training through the Central and Southern Province of the Society of Jesus.
I assure you, we are all committed to the safety of everyone on campus. School personnel are all mandatory reporters. Any credible allegation of sexual abuse against someone who is a minor will be immediately reported to law enforcement. I cannot stress this enough to you today – you as parents are on the front line in recognizing harmful situations. If you or your son become suspicious of any inappropriate behavior, please report it immediately.
As you all know, from day one I have been committed to making this the safest possible environment for our students, your sons. I will be speaking to your sons at Morning Assembly tomorrow. I will encourage them to speak with their guidance counselors if the need for support arises, and would ask you to do the same. We must come together as a community to heal.
When this news came to light, I received a phone call from a friend asking me if I regretted taking this assignment. My answer will always be, from the bottom of my heart, I have no regrets in coming to Jesuit High School. I love this place. Today Jesuit continues to make a difference in the lives of our students, in the New Orleans community, and in our world. I am as committed today as I was on day one to the mission of Jesuit High School. Please join us in prayer for anyone impacted by abuse.
Fr. Christopher Fronk, S.J.
President of Jesuit High School
The Archdiocese of New Orleans released the following statement Thursday:
“The Archdiocese of New Orleans was not aware of the abuse which is reported to have occurred in the late 1970s involving a Jesuit priest and an employee of the school. Jesuit, like any other Religious Order school, is responsible to, and answers to its religious community, in this case, the Jesuits. While we are not aware of any of the details, this would have been a matter handled by and within the Jesuit Province.”
Copyright 2018 WVUE. All rights reserved.