"Pass the dish so I can wash my hands of this matter"

http://www.pressherald.com/news/state/020823priests.shtml

Friday, August 23, 2002

DA: Charges unlikely for accused priests

By KEITH EDWARDS, Blethen Maine News Service

Copyright 2002 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

AUGUSTA - The top prosecutor for Kennebec and Somerset counties said Thursday no criminal charges are likely to result from his review of allegations of sexual abuse by priests.

Kennebec and Somerset County District Attorney David W. Crook also said other district attorneys seem to be coming to the same conclusion that none of the 33 complaints of sex abuse forwarded to the state by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland are likely to result in criminal charges.

"Quite bluntly, out of all the complaints, none appear to be prosecutable," Crook said. "This was not of Massachusetts proportions at all. I think this is probably the opinion of all the district attorneys I have reached. I can't speak for all of them, obviously. DAs are a pretty conservative lot, so we all sort of hesitate to say never. But it is extremely remote to think there is going to be any prosecution in this district."

This year's priest abuse scandal erupted in Massachusetts in January, with numerous allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

The files Crook reviewed were among the complaints against 33 inactive priests and church officials in Maine that initially were reviewed by the state Attorney General's Office. State officials completed their review and distributed the files to local prosecutors to decide whether to file charges.

Crook received seven or eight complaints; he could not recall just how many Thursday. He said charges are not likely to be filed in any of the complaints for a number of reasons, including the fact that some of the complaints allege sexual misconduct that may be unethical and even immoral, but not illegal.

Other complaints, he said, refer to events that occurred so long ago that the statute of limitations has run out. Still others were anonymous or too vague.

"There were a wide range of complaints, some of which alleged crimes, some of which did not," Crook said. "Out of the possible crimes, the statute of limitations had expired on them."

Crook noted that not all of the complaints involved priests. One, for instance, alleged misconduct by a choir director.

Geoffrey A. Rushlau, district attorney for Knox, Sagadahoc, Lincoln and Waldo counties, could not be reached for comment Thursday, but has previously said his preliminary review would lead him to agree with Crook's assessment that prosecution was unlikely to result from the complaints.

Norman R. Croteau, district attorney for Franklin, Androscoggin and Oxford counties, also could not be reached.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland turned over the names to law enforcement officials of all former Maine priests accused of molesting children. Church officials and the state have refused to release those names to the public, however.

Blethen Maine Newspapers, parent company of the Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, has filed a lawsuit seeking information about 18 deceased Maine priests accused of molesting children or of other sexual misconduct.

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