Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Hearing delayed in priest stabbing

Fenwick principal too weak to attend

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MIDDLETOWN — A judge postponed a hearing Monday on the stabbing of Fenwick High School Principal the Rev. Charles “Chuck” Mentrup because the priest is still recovering and was too weak to attend.

        “He's not physically or emotionally ready,” said his attorney, John D. Smith of Springboro. “He can't lay down and he can't sleep in a bed. He can get up and move only with assistance.”

        A preliminary hearing had been scheduled for Middletown Municipal Court to determine whether there is enough evidence to send the case to a Butler County grand jury.

        But Father Mentrup's inability to attend the hearing forced Judge Mark Wall to reschedule it for May 25. Mr. Smith had submitted a physician's report to the judge.

        “We wouldn't be able to go forward without Father Mentrup,” the judge said.

        Father Mentrup was stabbed on the morning of May 5 in his home. Marcus A. Finefrock, a 25-year-old law school graduate, has been charged with felonious assault.

        The priest has told police he does not wish to press charges, but has identified Mr. Finefrock as his assailant.

        Mr. Finefrock appeared in court Monday, but said nothing.

        He kept silent when reporters asked him questions as he walked with his attorney, Clyde Bennett III, to a car after the hearing.

        Father Mentrup is willing to appear in court on May 25, but he plans to honor a Roman Catholic law that forbids a priest from breaking confidence from a confession or religious counseling, Mr. Smith said.

        “Those are solemn vows he took when he became a priest,” he said. “It's non-negotiable.”

        Before the preliminary hearing next week, Judge Wall will listen to arguments from Mr. Bennett, Mr. Smith and Middletown Prosecutor Bruce Fassler on the question of whether Father Mentrup should be required to testify.

        Mr. Bennett has asked Judge Wall to exclude Father Mentrup from testifying about the stabbing and to exclude testimony from police and others about what Father Mentrup might have told them.

        Judge Wall said he must decide in this case whether acts and behavior as well as speech are privileged information under Ohio law.


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