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Gay man loses suit against Oak Lawn church, parishioner

by Gary Barlow
Friday Feb 4, 2011

A gay man's lawsuit seeking up to $200,000 in civil damages from St. Linus Catholic Church in Oak Lawn and five parishioners was rejected Jan. 31 by a Cook County Circuit Court jury.

Kerry Kross sought the damages in connection with an incident at a "Way Off Broadway" fundraiser at St. Linus School March 4, 2005. Kross alleged that he was physically attacked and battered by parishioners at the event. The defendants cursed him and uttered anti-gay slurs during the attack, Kross alleged.

But the defendants painted a different picture of the evening's events, saying Kross became intoxicated and disruptive at the fundraiser, at which alcoholic beverages were sold. They alleged that he used abusive language in conversations with other attendees, including women, and at one point grabbed a microphone being used by an entertainer and demanded he play different musical selections.

A jury of 12 people in Judge Donald Suriano's courtroom agreed with the defendants and dismissed Kross' lawsuit.

"The evidence reveals that Mr. Kross was treated for blunt force trauma at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn that evening," said Kross' attorney, Michael Greco, in his closing argument. "His testimony is that he was just simply attacked."

Greco said Kross was there with his daughter and former wife and that he had some conversations referred to by witnesses but did not use abusive language.

"Mr. Kross was bleeding substantially," Greco said. "None of these parties made any moves to call 911 or secure some help for Mr. Kross."

An Oak Lawn police officer, Matthew Ward, did come to the scene after a 911 call and testified that when he got there Kross was being physically restrained on the floor and resisted his attempts to handcuff him.

"He was screaming, flailing his arms, kicking his legs," Ward said.

Kross said he bought just one drink at the event, but he said it was unusually strong.

One defendant, St. Linus Parish, was dropped from the lawsuit when Suriano ordered a directed verdict in favor of the parish Jan. 28. Another defendant in the suit originally filed in March 2007 had also been dropped, leaving five parishioners from the church as defendants.

They were represented by three different attorneys, all of whom told the jury that Kross' behavior was the source of the problems that evening. Anti-gay slurs were never used against Kross, the attorneys said. The jury came back with the verdict in less than an hour.

Kross had also faced disorderly conduct charges filed in Oak Lawn against him in connection with the incident but those charges were dropped before trial.

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