Tuesday, November 5, 2002

More time sought for grand jury

Prosecutors want 5 more months for investigation of priests

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Hamilton County prosecutors asked a judge Monday to give them five more months to complete an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by Catholic priests.

Prosecutors launched the investigation July 8 when they convened a special grand jury to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against clergy or other church employees who have been accused of misconduct.

The grand jury's four-month term will end Friday unless Common Pleas Judge Fred Cartolano grants the prosecutors' request for more time.

In a request filed with the court Monday, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said the grand jury needs another five months - until April 8, 2003 - to finish its work.

The request does not explain why more time is needed. Neither prosecutors nor church lawyers would comment on the case.

Prosecutors began investigating allegations of sexual misconduct in April, after church officials admitted that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati continued to employ four unnamed priests despite "substantiated allegations" of misconduct that date back 10 or more years.

Since then, four other priests have either been suspended or have voluntarily taken leave because of misconduct allegations.

Prosecutors convened the grand jury in July after sparring for months with church officials about which archdiocese records should be turned over to investigators.

The archdiocese argued that some of the records should be withheld to honor promises of confidentiality made to the alleged victims. Prosecutors accused the archdiocese of "hiding evidence."

The nine-member grand jury has the power to issue subpoenas, review evidence and hear witness testimony about the abuse allegations. Ultimately, the grand jury could be asked to indict suspects on criminal charges.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, and Judge Cartolano has sealed all court records related to the case.

E-mail: dhorn@enquirer.com