Defrocked deacon dies while awaiting criminal trial

Updated: Jun. 30, 2020 at 4:41 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A former local catholic church deacon passed away while awaiting trial on a first-degree rape charge.

George Brignac was arrested late last year, after a lengthy investigation, and multiple lawsuit settlements.

Brignac served in three parishes before he was defrocked in 1988 after yet another victim claimed abuse at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in New Orleans.

Brignac was arrested late last year after a lengthy NOPD investigation which led to a first-degree rape charge.

His attorney Martin Regan says he fell in prison after his arrest and hurt his back and was receiving treatment at Maison Orleans nursing home when he fell ill Monday and was taken to the hospital, where he died.

News of Brignac's death brought on a range of emotions for alleged victims like Steve McEvoy, who has a case pending in bankruptcy court and is coming forward for the first time.

“He was the main person that raped me but the church has proven that they supported him throughout,” McEvoy said.

Both McEvoy and John Anderson say the abuse occurred at Saint Matthews Church in the late 1970s.

“How many people could’ve been saved throughout the whole archdiocese by just putting him in jail,” Anderson said.

We spoke with Brignac exactly two years ago at his Metairie home prior to his arrest.

"Do you make any apologies to the boys who claimed you abused them?" we asked.

Brignac’s response, ”I’ve always been apologetic to anything that I did wrong if I did anything wrong.”

Brignac stood trial in the late 1970s based on allegations brought by John Anderson. Brignac was acquitted and Anderson doesn't believe he received a fair trial.

“No, I did not when you have a judge who was a major Catholic fundraiser and clergy comes into a courtroom dressed in full regalia and then goes back in chambers. I was sitting there the whole time and I was scared to death,” said Anderson, who was a boy at the time.

Now in his 50′s, Anderson was looking forward to testifying against Brignac in his upcoming trial, for the first-degree rape of another boy who was between seven and 11 years old.

That victim claims Brignac groomed and raped him in multiple locations while serving as an altar boy at our Lady of the Holy Rosary.

I haven’t had my chance to look at him face-to-face and tell them exactly the impact he had on my situation and the six decades that is affecting my family,” Anderson said.

Though several claimants are now lined up in federal bankruptcy court with allegations against Brignac, their efforts to recover settlements may have suffered a setback.

"Anything that would've come out in a criminal trial could've been used in the civil case because it's a sworn statement under oath," said Fox 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti.

Brignac Attorney Martin Regan says Brignac was looking forward to standing trial in order to clear his name.

Though Brignac was defrocked in 1988, he was serving as a lay minister at St. Mary Magdalen Church in Metairie until 2018 before the church removed him. Brignac was 85 years old.

Orleans D.A. Leon Cannizzaro put out this statement on Brignac's passing:

"Our thoughts are with the victims of this man, those who suffered traumatic sexual abuse as children and hoped to see justice finally rendered as adults. Our staff put hundreds of hours into this case to secure the grand jury indictment of Mr. Brignac last December and in preparation for trial. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic had other plans for court schedules and we ran out of time. Mr. Brignac escaped judgment in this world, but I have to believe it will be rendered by the ultimate judge for his crimes against defenseless children."

The Archdiocese issued this statement:

“Most importantly, we offer our prayers for victims and survivors of abuse. The Archdiocese of New Orleans abides by all mandatory reporting laws of the State of Louisiana. We have reported clergy named on the 2018 Report on Clergy Abuse to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. We pledge our full and continued cooperation into any law enforcement investigations just as we cooperated in the investigation of George Brignac.”

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