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EXCLUSIVE: Once again, Atty. Mark Tate finds himself seeking restitution for alleged sexual abuse, but this time, the former Priest is alleged to have taken his life last week

Category: Law

PHOTO:  Atty. Mark Tate on the Savannah square outside his office in Savannah's Historic District.

By Lou Phelps, Savannah Business Journal

January 22, 2017 – He has earned a deserved reputation of effectively representing the victims of sexual predators, including by priests and religious leaders, and gained large monetary settlements for his clients. He now finds himself in the middle of a new case, one that is complicated by the nature of celebrity in a small city where everyone knows each other.

Last year, alone, he reached a $9 million settlement with the Savannah Catholic Diocese involving a former Savannah area priest who was alleged to have abused multiple victims in the local area, activity alleged to have been known by the Diocese who covered up his actions.  The Diocese settled, rather than go to trial.

Two weeks ago, on January 11, Atty. Mark Tate, and The Tate Law Group of Savannah, filed suit against Henry B. “Hank” Groover, III, (pictured in 2003 at lower right) living at 112 Palmetto Drive in Savannah, alleging sexual exploitation of a minor and violations of Georgia’s ‘Hidden Predator Act' by Groover.  Rev. Groover, who was an Anglican priest, was served a summons subsequent to the filing.

But on Tuesday, Jan. 17, Rev. Groover is alleged to have taken his own life, confirmed by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.  The home he was living at is owned by his brother Joseph Nicholas Groover, next door to his sister-in-law Paula Deen.  Atty. Tate believes that the death occurred at an area hotel.  No media alert was published by the SCMPD, and no local obituary for Groover has been published, to date.

Over the last twenty-five years, Rev. Groover has served in Athens, Georgia at the UGA Campus Ministry; at St. Dominic’s in Miami, Florida; at St. Anthony of Padua, New Orleans, LA ; at Holy Ghost, Hammond, Louisiana; and at Our Lady of Pompeii, Tickfaw, LA, according to court documents filed by The Tate Law firm.  Like many such cases and allegations, Rev. Groover was moved to multiple assignments by church authorities, despite reports and knowledge of his illegal activities. Tate asserts.  

The case was brought by Tate on behalf of his clients Ancil Harvey Gordon, III and Heather Amanda Gordon. Mr. Gordon grew up next door to the Groovers and Deens on Wilmington Island.  

In a national interview, Tate stated this week, “Clearly this sad man knew that all his sins were about to be revealed in a way he could not any longer deny nor live with. It’s a sad ending for a sad man made only worse by the untold numbers of children whose lives were ruined by his perversions.”

The filing states that on Nov. 24, 2003, Rev. Groover, while serving as a Dominican priest in St. Anthony of Padua, New Orleans, LA, was arrested at the President Street's boat ramp in Savannah for exposing himself to a Savannah Chatham Metro Police Officer and causing his arrest for sexual battery. 

“The officer inquired of Groover of his employment and he openly admitted he was a Catholic Priest. The area of his arrest, the President Street's boat ramp, was known to then Detective Foster with the Savannah Chatham Metro Police Department as "a well-known pick up area for people, mostly males, attempting to engage in public sex acts,” Atty. Tate’s filing states.

And, Tate’s filing also allege that during the years 1983 to present, Rev. Groover was well known to some in the Savannah Chatham Metropolitan area as a pedophile and sexual predator.

The basis of the case alleges that from 1983 until 1986, Rev. Groover,  “lured and otherwise enticed then minor Ancil Harvey Gordon, III into the illegal sexual acts”, using LSD, alcohol, MDMA, cocaine and other illicit substances to lure and otherwise attract then minor Ancil Harvey Gordon, III for illegal, lewd, and explicit sexual acts which were then and are now illegal.”

And, “as a result of all of the illegal and otherwise wrongful conduct engaged in by Henry B. Groover, III, Ancil Harvey Gordon, III endured grievous personal injury and continues to this day to suffer extreme mental anguish which has effected every element of his life,” according to the filings.

Other background information in Tate’s filings includes that, “At one point, Father Henry B. Groover, III shared a cottage with another priest who also had allegations against him regarding sexual impropriety. This priest was later murdered by the priest cottage caretaker who also had accusations against him regarding sexual impropriety. In fact, the dead priest had supplied his killer with drugs and alcohol before having non-consensual  sex with him.  This priest’s killer later committed suicide while in prison.”

“Father Henry B. Groover, III has now moved his residence to a location adjacent to the Plaintiffs' which the Defendant views as a target rich hunting field just as he and his dead companion felt about their secret cottage in Mississippi where their activities resulted in two deaths and untold molestations.

“The fact that Father Groover had a secret cottage with this now dead priest shows that Father Groover's predator conduct is and was well honed, was and is ingrained  and  perpetual;

“This location , now having its foliage cleared by the Defendant, allows the  Defendant to continuously observe the Plaintiffs' family, including the Plaintiffs' minor and adult children;

“The Defendant's past conduct is actionable under Georgia's Hidden Predator Act; 16.

“The Defendant has continued to inflict intentional grievous mental anguish upon the Plaintiffs by contacting them and their minor children,” are additional allegations.

In July 2011, Jeremy Wayne Manieri was accused of shooting to death the Rev. Edward Everitt, 70, on July 11, stealing his gun and car, and fleeing to Florida where he was captured the next day, the case referred to by Atty. Tate.  Everitt was pastor of two Louisiana churches; Manieri testified that he did not know that Rev. Everitt was a Catholic priest.

Rev. Groover had been suspended from his priestly duties earlier that year at the same church where Everitt was pastor in Hammond, La., after revelations he was arrested in a sex sting in Georgia in 2003, according to the document filed by Atty. Tate.

The Case Moves Forward, Pursuing Groover’s Estate

Despite Groover’s death, the case will move forward, according to Atty. Tate, and there is another twist.  

Number one, my client is not that man’s only victim. Number two, we intend to have an estate created for Hank Groover, and we’re going to take depositions and conduct discovery as if he was still alive, and get a trial date for my client and a judgment for my client.”

“We know that there are, in Savannah, many more victims of this guy. We also know that this guy was passed from Diocese to Diocese to Diocese, and that happened because he was given a clean bill of health, and he did that with the imprimatur and validity from the Catholic Church,” Tate adds.

“But, it goes further than that,” states Atty. Tate. After he lost his last position as a priest and returned to live in Savannah, “his celebrity sister-in-law knew about all of this. She had him on her TV shows, where she threw her arms around him and called him her spiritual advisor, and called him a priest on sabbatical,” says Tate. 

Rev. Groover’s brother is Michael Groover, Paula Deen's husband.  

“Our firm has been defending and seeking compensation for women and men who have been abused. We can shine the light of sunshine on deceptive practices, and disinfect the world… the facts present themselves,” Atty. Tate says.

“He continued his conduct after he returned to Savannah. He first moved into the home of his sister in law, Paula Dean. She provided him aid and comfort,” Tate alleges, adding that Rev. Groover, approached his client’s house, and approached his children.

The victim’s home is adjacent to Paula Deen and Michael Groover’s home, which is also adjacent to the home of their brother at 112 Palmetto Dr., Rev. Groover's last known address, and his addressed included in Tate's case filing.  The families have all lived in the same Wilmington Island neighborhood for many years, and knew each other, explains Tate.

“This man was an adult. My client was a child.  He became an ordained priest, and got passed from Diocese to Diocese. And when he came back to Savannah, Paula Dean contributed to that behavior, knowing full well that this man was a pedophile…” Tate emphasized in an interview today. 

“My lawsuits are not intended to cause people to kill themselves,” Tate added, stating that he, “is saddened about the week’s events.”

“But I am not scared to sue Paula Deen, or somebody’s supposed celebrity,” if necessary, Tate said, in explaining why he took the case. “I have known my client for many years,” a man who Tate said designed and built the sets for Paula’s famous cooking show which made her a national celebrity.

Editor's Note:  Attempts to contact Paula Deen have so far been unsuccessful. We will update this story if legal or public relations representatives respond to our request for an interview or comment.

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