Archdiocese to pay $1.2M in sex abuse case involving priest at Bellingham parish

The Seattle Archdiocese will pay a Sedro-Woolley woman $1.2 million to settle a sexual abuse case that involved a priest who once served the Bellingham area.

Jeri Hubbard, now 63, says she was sexually abused in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Father Michael Cody, who served as pastor of St. Charles Parish in Burlington and Assumption Parish in Bellingham at the time.

The settlement happened late Sunday, May 17, as the case was mid-trial in Whatcom County Superior Court, according to her attorneys.

Cody had been diagnosed as a pedophile in 1962, when a psychiatrist advised former Seattle Archbishop Thomas Connelly that Cody had molested at least eight girls, according to Hubbard’s attorneys.

Connelly sent Cody to treatment but allowed him to return and eventually transferred him to the Burlington parish, where he abused Hubbard, the attorneys said in a statement released Monday, May 18.

The abuse began in about 1967 and continued for five years, Hubbard alleged in her suit. In a deposition Cody, now 84, acknowledged having inappropriately touched girls but said he didn’t have relations with Hubbard until after she turned 18, according to the Associated Press.

The Seattle Archdiocese admitted at trial that it was liable for the abuse because it knew of Cody’s diagnosis and failed to protect children after it transferred him from parish to parish, according to the attorneys.

“Ms. Hubbard contends, and the Archdiocese does not dispute, that the Archdiocese’s appointment of Father Cody to Ms. Hubbard’s parish was negligent and reckless, and caused Ms. Hubbard severe emotional distress,” Judge Deborra Garrett told the jury in opening instructions, according to the attorneys.

Cody also abused children while he was at Assumption parish, according to attorney Rand F. Jack, one of those representing Hubbard. Additional lawsuits will be filed, Jack said.

The Archdiocese’s admissions in the Hubbard case could be part of future cases, according to another of Hubbard’s attorneys, John W. Murphy.

“I’m proud of Jeri because she would not settle without getting to tell her story to a jury,” Murphy said in a news release. “She could have settled earlier, but she made the Archdiocese admit in court that it knew it was moving a sexual predator into our community. It is now on record for her case and future cases.”

Archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni said Monday the archdiocese regrets the pain it caused Hubbard.

Before being sent to Burlington and Bellingham, Cody served at St. Luke Parish, Holy Family Parish and St. James Cathedral in Seattle; Holy Family Parish in Auburn and Sacred Heart Parish in La Conner, according to Hubbard’s attorneys. After Burlington and Bellingham, he was sent to St. Margaret Parish in Seattle.

Though The Bellingham Herald does not normally name victims of sexual abuse, Hubbard agreed to be publicly named.

Cody hasn’t served as a priest since 1979, according to AP. He was defrocked in 2005.