Report: Disgraced deacon George Brignac dies while awaiting 1980s child rape trial

Brignac was named in the November 2018 list of credibly accused sexual abusers within the Catholic Church. He stood accused of raping a child in 1980s.

NEW ORLEANS — A disgraced Roman Catholic deacon who was awaiting trial on allegations of raping a child in the 1980s died Monday, according to his attorney.

While George Brignac had been free since posting a $1 million bail in December, he never made it home, attorney Martin Regan said Tuesday.

While briefly locked up in the Orleans Justice Center  as his bail was being processed in mid-December, Brignac broke a vertebrae when he fell inside the lock-up. He never recovered, Regan said, bouncing between hospital stays  and a rehabilitation home.

“I expected him to get an ankle bracelet and come home like most inmates, but it never happened,” Regan said. “My client was anxious to go to trial. Except for his injuries, he’d probably still be walking around.”

Brignac, 85, had been transferred to Touro Infirmary from the Uptown nursing home Maison Orleans on Sunday before he died less than 24 hours later, attorney Martin Regan said Tuesday.

Regan said he did not have details on a cause of death for his client and was unsure whether an autopsy would be conducted.

Brignac pleaded not guilty on Dec. 13 to a charge of first-degree rape, which carries a mandatory life sentence. He was the only clergyman to have been charged after being included on a Nov. 2, 2018, list that the Archdiocese New Orleans released of priests and deacons who had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse.

RELATED: New Orleans Archdiocese: 57 clergy have credible claims of sexual abuse of minors 

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro expressed disappointment that Brignac passed away before going to trial, which was delayed in part because of the court closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” Cannizzaro wrote in a statement. “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 case for which Brignac was awaiting trial was only the latest in which he had been accused of molesting a minor. He was charged in 1977 with molesting boys at a school where he taught but was acquitted.

Despite those charges, Brignac began working at another school. He was again arrested on sexual abuse allegations in 1980 and 1988, but prosecutors declined to press charges both times.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans said Brignac had been removed from public ministry after the second of those arrests, but he had continued to read at Masses at St. Mary Magdalene as recently as the summer of 2018. 

Later that year, an alleged victim of Brignac filed a civil lawsuit against him and the archdiocese which turned up emails between the local church and the New Orleans Saints football team. Saints executives said they were providing the church public relations advice surrounding the release of the credibly accused roster. 

Regan said his client was barely able to walk due to his injury and remained bedridden for most of his final months. Once the pandemic lockdown was ordered, Brignac remained isolated at Maison Orleans, unable to even meet with Regan to prepare a defense. In his final days, Regan said Brignac lost his ability to speak.

“The injury caused him great depression and the coronavirus kept him from seeing his friends and blocked him from seeing his attorney,” Regan said.

Brignac died a little more than two months after the death of his twin brother, longtime Catholic priest Horace L. “H.L.” Brignac. H.L. Brignac died on April 16, also at the age of 85. 

RELATED: Abuse finding didn’t end ex-deacon’s work with children

RELATED: LIST: Jesuits ID 19 members with New Orleans ties credibly accused of sexual abuse

► Get breaking news from your neighborhood delivered directly to you by downloading the new FREE WWL-TV News app now in the IOS App Store or Google Play.

‎Stay up-to-date with the latest news and weather in the New Orleans area on the all-new free WWL TV app. Our app features the latest breaking news that impacts you and your family, interactive weather and radar, and live video from our newscasts and local events. LOCAL & BREAKING NEWS * Receive r…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *