New Orleans man alleges he was trapped in a sex ring run by Catholic church

This 2012 file photo shows a silhouette of a crucifix and a stained glass window inside a Catholic church in New Orleans.


A New Orleans man who says he survived clergy abuse says he was trapped in a sex trafficking ring run by the Catholic church.

Richard Coon is telling his raw and emotional story for the first time in detail. He says his experience with sexual abuse was one compared to being in a sex ring.

A warning: some of the details he shared are graphic.

Coon said his story involves three men linked to the Catholic church who are now all dead.

Coon’s story involves allegations of rape, an extravagant vacation, drugs and a suicide attempt.

“There are so many victims that don’t have a voice,” Coon said.

Coon, 57, said he is giving his 10-year-old self a voice for the first time.

“I was just so confused because none of it made sense. None of it related to anything I was taught growing up in the church, I was such an active person in the church,” Coon said.

The Catholic Church was Coon’s life. Coon said he met his first accused abuser in the 1970s.

Coon said a high-ranking employee at a Catholic school befriended him and began grooming him.

Coon claims it started with touching and then progressed to oral sex. He said the abuse continued and escalated until he was 15 years old.

“It was so confusing to me because it really hurt, and I told him to stop,” Coon said. “I was hurting, I was crying, and he wouldn’t stop, and I couldn’t understand how a human would continue to assault a kid that was in pain. This is supposed to be someone I could trust. It just changed my life.”

While Coon’s life changed, he said he hid the trauma.

Coon says he channeled the pain into the sport of diving.

He said after he graduated high school, a priest approached him at an area pool.

“He introduced himself to me as a photographer and asked if he could take pictures of me diving for his portfolio. In return, I would get copies of all the pictures. I agreed to it. He also informed that he was a priest,” Coon said.

Coon said a new trust was formed again, and what he thought was a friendship started.

According to Coon, right before his 20th birthday, he was invited by the priest to attend a trip in the Caribbean.

Coon said he was still living with his parents and said he was allowed to attend because priests were on the trip.

While on the boat, Coon claims he was given drugs.

“They gave us these little squares of paper and told us to put them under our tongues,” Coon said. “I didn’t question him; he was a priest. I figured it was something to prevent us from getting sick. I did it, and it turned out to be LSD. I questioned to him on the boat, ‘How can you be a Catholic priest and live a gay lifestyle?’ It didn’t make sense to me; it was the opposite of anything I had been taught. His response was within the hierarchy of the Catholic church, there exists an elite secret society, and in that secret society it was made up of God’s most favorable men and that the highest form of love was between two men.”

Coon feels he was preyed on and, at the time, truly believed he was part of a secret society.

After returning home, Coon said he was introduced to ecstasy.

Coon said the priest invited him for a weekend stay at a rectory on the North Shore.

“In the middle of the night, I woke up, and he was naked in bed with me and was fondling me, and I said, ‘Stop what are you doing.’ He did stop, said he was sorry and left the room,” Coon said.

Coon said he was brainwashed and at one point and thought he was supposed to be in a relationship with a priest.

Coon said he was offered a tour at a seminary where he says he met a reverend and brought to a private suite.

“He comes up to me, puts his hands on my shoulders and starts kissing me. I was in shock. He led me back to the bedroom and started undressing me,” Coon said. “He lays me down, gets on top of me, and there was no penetration, and he went to put lotion on us. I felt assaulted and confused. I walked back to my car. As soon as I closed the door, I started screaming and crying. I felt like I had disrespected the church. I felt like I defiled the archbishop’s space.”

Coon said he continued to mask his pain, but it wasn’t enough. He says it got so bad he tried to kill himself.

“It was carbon monoxide,” Coon said. “I covered myself with plastic and took Valium to go to sleep and just hoped I didn’t wake up. At the very last minute, I sent a text out to the people I loved and the people I knew were there for me, and they came and saved me.”

Coon said he was able to get help and intense therapy. In December 2018, he said his therapist advised him to go to the police.

WDSU uncovered this report from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office when Coon came forward to report his alleged rape.

The JPSO record states Coon recalled 35 times when he said he was sexually abused by the man he met as a child in the 1970s.

According to the report in one in instance, he described Coon’s alleged abuser getting on top of him, pinning him down, with his arm across Coon’s neck and raping him. The report says Coon begged him to stop, and that was the last time Coon saw the man.

According to the report, the man Coon accused of raping him — who was 74 years old in 2018 — stated to investigators he does not remember if he touched any underage boys inappropriately.

According to the report, the man stated he did not rape anybody.

The report says that based on a lack of evidence, the case was closed without an arrest.

“It hurt, but at the same time, I felt like I had been heard. That’s a lot for someone that goes through this,” Coon said.

Coon has filed a civil claim against the Archdiocese of New Orleans, but what he wants most is for the bankrupt archdiocese to be transparent in releasing sealed and crucial records.

“Gregory Aymond decided to double down on the cover-up. I have no respect for him whatsoever,” Coon said. “He could have put this whole thing to an end by releasing the files. I think it’s a disgrace.”

In 2018, the archdiocese released a list of credibly accused priests, and Aymond says he’s committed to continuing to be transparent, but Coon says transparency has not happened.

Dioceses in other cities have released detailed records for the public outlining sex abuse allegations within the diocese.

“We should be one of those archdioceses where we are on the road to healing, and we are not, and it’s all because of Gregory Aymond. He needs to step down as archbishop. He says one thing and does another,” Coon said.

Coon said he finds some peace in knowing that his story is being told.

“It is very healing. One of the best things a survivor can do, and it’s monumental, is to tell the story and admit what happened to them. You are well on your way to healing if you are able to do that, and my voice was silenced for 3 1/2 decades. I didn’t feel like I could speak,” Coon said.

WDSU reached out to the Archdiocese of New Orleans for an on-camera interview regarding this story last week.

A spokesperson declined and said by phone they do not comment on pending litigation.

WDSU was told a statement regarding additional questions would be sent.

A spokesperson sent the following response, “Sorry, we have nothing to add.”

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