Saturday, July 13, 2002

Prosecutors, church meet over abuse

First talks held since appointment of grand jury

By Dan Horn,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Hamilton County prosecutors and lawyers for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati met Friday for the first time since a special grand jury began investigating allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

        The closed-door meeting was called by Common Pleas Judge Fred Cartolano and lasted about a half-hour.

Click here for all Enquirer reports on accusations or actions against local priests.
        Although neither side would comment on the meeting, it's likely that prosecutors and church lawyers were trying to resolve differences over how the grand jury investigation will work. The two sides have sparred for months over which church records prosecutors are entitled to see as they investigate claims of abuse.

        Prosecutor Mike Allen said in April that the archdiocese was trying to “hide evidence” from investigators. Church officials, however, said they were cooperating and had provided all of the records they were permitted to share.

        The nine-member grand jury, which works in secret, is now a critical part of the investigation. It has the power to demand evidence, subpoena witnesses and hear sworn testimony.

        When its work is done, the grand jury could indict suspects on criminal charges or issue a report on its findings without charging anyone.

        Prosecutors asked for the appointment of the grand jury after nearly four months of investigating abuse allegations. The investigation began when church officials disclosed that the archdiocese had “substantiated” allegations of abuse against several Greater Cincinnati priests.

        The church would not name the priests and refused to turn over some records to authorities, saying that doing so would betray promises of confidentiality to victims.

        In the past three months, four priests in the archdiocese have been suspended or have voluntarily taken leave. Three were accused of sexual misconduct and the fourth was accused of improperly using church computers.


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