Priests' Cases Too Old, Queens Prosecutor Says

April 24, 2002

By SARAH KERSHAW

New York Times

After reviewing the cases of 21 priests accused over the
past several decades of sexual abuse, the Queens district
attorney said yesterday that all the events appeared to
have occurred too long ago to allow criminal prosecution.

The district attorney, Richard A. Brown, said that although
the cases in his borough appeared to be too old to
prosecute under the statute of limitations, he would
continue to investigate those cases as well as other leads
on possible sexual abuse by priests.

The 21 cases Mr. Brown referred to were turned over to his
office recently by the Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes
parishes in Queens. A law enforcement official said that
the most recent accusation of abuse in that batch involved
incidents reported to have happened in October 1995.

The statute of limitations on criminal charges of sexual
abuse of a minor is five years for a felony and two years
for a misdemeanor, but in some cases the time limit does
not start to run until after the victim turns 18, officials
said.

In an interview, Mr. Brown said that most of the cases his
office reviewed were decades old, dating from as far back
as the 1960's, and that the drop-off in reported cases
concerned him.

"I have difficulty in my own mind in believing that the
curtain has suddenly dropped, that clerical sexual abuse
suddenly stopped 5 or 10 years ago," he said.

However, asked if he thought the diocese was withholding
information on more recent cases, he said, "I'm not
suggesting that."

Along with his findings, Mr. Brown released a letter to the
bishop of Brooklyn, Thomas V. Daily, urging him to
encourage parents and children with knowledge of more
recent cases of sex abuse to come forward.

"I very much fear that there may exist youngsters who have
recently been - or who are currently being - sexually
abused, but who, paralyzed by inaction, confusion or fear,
are reluctant to seek help," Mr. Brown wrote.

Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for Bishop Daily, said that the
bishop felt Mr. Brown's letter included "good suggestions"
and that "the diocese will cooperate and will reach out to
parents in the parishes."

After initially resisting, the Diocese of Brooklyn this
month forwarded the names and files of about 42 accused
priests, including several whom the diocese suspended
recently as the scandal grew, to prosecutors in Queens and
Brooklyn. The Brooklyn prosecutors, as well as authorities
in Manhattan, the Bronx and Westchester - who are reviewing
cases sent to them by the archdiocese of New York - said
they were still reviewing the reports.

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