Friday, September 30, 2005

 

Sources: Priest Killed Hudson Funeral Home Workers


"Ol Cranky" and JG both send us an update to this story:

Hudson, Wis. - Prosecutors said they will present strong evidence in a hearing next week that will officially declare the case of a double murder at a funeral home in Hudson, Wis. closed.

Sources said prosecutors will present evidence showing that a Catholic priest murdered Dan O'Connell and James Ellison in a funeral home more than three years ago.

Since Feb. 5, 2002, the motive behind the shootings of O'Connell, 39, and Ellison, 22, has been an unsolved puzzle, until now.

The pieces start with what happened inside the walls of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Hudson.

Sources said that sometime before February 2002, a teenage boy was sent to the church. He had gotten in trouble with the law and was assigned to do community service at the church.

The boy was placed under the care of Father Ryan Erickson, sources said. Erickson, 31, was a youth pastor, but sources said on at least three occasions, Erickson took the boy into the rectory of the church, served him alcohol and molested him.

Hudson Police have launched a separate investigation into those allegations.

The murders are tied to those allegations because O'Connell and his family are very well connected in the church. O'Connell’s father serves on the church council and Erickson presided over O'Connell's funeral.

Sources said O'Connell found out something about these allegations against Erickson. It is unknown what O'Connell found out, or if anyone will ever know what O'Connell found out, but sources said O'Connell told at least one person he was going to confront Erickson about what he was told.

Sources said that shortly after O'Connell confronted Erickson about the allegations, he and his intern were shot dead inside the O'Connell Family Funeral Home.

Prosecutors will present to a judge information that shows Erickson was trying to cover up his trail of molestation by killing O'Connell and that University of Minnesota student Ellison was also killed because he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, sources said.

Hudson Police started questioning Erickson about the shootings and investigators have said Erickson did know information about the crime scene nobody else could have known. Shortly after investigators began questioning him, Erickson committed suicide.

Sources said police have solid evidence against Erickson, but police have never found the murder weapon.

Either way, police believe this puzzle is now solved.

The evidence will be presented during John Doe hearings next week. The hearings will take place behind closed doors before Circuit Judge Eric Lundell.

Lundell will rule whether evidence gathered by police provides enough probable cause that Erickson could have been charged with the crime, if he were still alive.

The hearings are expected to last three days and could include up to 15 witnesses. Only the victims' and the priest's families will be allowed to attend the hearing, but transcripts of the testimony and other police documents will be released afterward.

Erickson's parents released a statement Friday calling the evidence in the case "very weak."

"We know in our hearts that our son had nothing to do with this awful crime and feel tremendous sympathy for the families of Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Ellison," the statement said.

Neither the O'Connell family nor the Ellison family wanted to comment on camera for the story. The families did say they look forward to next week’s court hearing, so the truth will finally come out.


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Convicted DE Priest Was Reinstated


WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - Sept. 30, 2005 - Officials with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, have acknowledged that a priest convicted of indecent assault on two teenage boys in 1982 was reinstated to ministry the same year.

As recently as 2002, the Reverend Robert Hermley was serving at the Little Sisters of the Poor retirement complex in Ogletown.

Diocese officials say their policy since 1985 has been that no priest with credible allegations should be allowed to work in active ministry.

Officials said yesterday that they needed time to look into the facts surrounding Hermley's ministry.

Hermley was arrested in 1982 in Pennsylvania, while watching X-rated movies at a drive-in theater with two Philadelphia boys, ages 13 and 14. Nineteen pornographic magazines were found in the car.


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Trial delayed for priest accused of killing nun


TOLEDO, Ohio - A judge on Thursday set a new trial date for a Roman Catholic priest accused of killing a nun 25 years ago.

The trial for the Rev. Gerald Robinson is now scheduled for April 17. Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowick said that will be a firm date for the trial.

Robinson had been scheduled to go to court on Oct. 17. Defense lawyers asked for the delay so they could have more time to examine evidence.

He is accused of strangling and stabbing Sister Margaret Ann Pahl in a 1980 Easter weekend killing that investigators have described as ritualistic. The priest and the nun worked together at a hospital.

Robinson, 66, was an initial suspect in the killing, but he was not arrested until April 2004 after police reopened the case. Robinson, who is free on bond, wore a black suit and priest's collar during the hearing Thursday.


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Pastor may face prison time for sexual assault conviction


Dallas - That a charismatic pastor of an Irving nondenominational church had sex with at least three women in his tiny congregation was never in dispute during Steven G. Smith's trial.

Mr. Smith's own attorneys called his adulterous behavior "sad and distasteful" but argued he was not guilty of sexual assault because the relationships were consensual.

A jury disagreed Thursday, finding Mr. Smith guilty after deciding under a rarely used 1996 law that the women were unwilling participants because Mr. Smith exploited the emotional dependence he held over them as their pastor.

"That was the way he treated the women in his church," prosecutors Josh Healy said during closing arguments. "He'd use the Bible. He'd use God's word to prey on these women."

In each of the three cases described in the trial, female congregation members testified that Mr. Smith influenced them into having sex during private prayer and counseling sessions.

But attorneys for Mr. Smith argued that the relationships were consensual and that Mr. Smith was not acting in his capacity as a minister.

"It's straight-up adultery and it's wrong," said attorney Jack Peacock, but he added that the allegations do not amount to sexual assault.

When questioned during the trial about their relationships with Mr. Smith, the women said he would use the Bible to justify his behavior. In one case, Mr. Smith explained that his own commandment "to heal each others' hearts" took precedence over the Bible's commandment against adultery.

The women also said Mr. Smith alternately threatened that he was considering suicide and said he needed the sexual relationships because his own marriage was lacking.

"He told me how precious it was to his heart that I had let him be intimate with my soul," one of the women testified. The Dallas Morning News does not typically publish the names of victims of sex crimes. "He told me the Lord had literally used me to save his life during the suicidal depression he had been having. ... I didn't understand how to tell him no."

Former members of the church described a tightly knit ministry that began as a Bible study in the early 1980s and operated out of Mr. Smith's Irving home. The congregation never had more than 30 by design, and new members had to be approved by vote. Most members had been attending for more than 10 years when it imploded after the behavior surfaced in 2002.

Church members described Mr. Smith as the undisputed leader and teacher who did not delegate authority when it came to church matters.

The husband of one of the victims testified that Mr. Smith advised him to refrain from having sex with his then-girlfriend at the same time Mr. Smith was counseling the victim and having sex with her.

Mr. Healy and fellow prosecutor Brian Corrigan argued during the two-day trial that Mr. Smith was a sexual predator. After six hours of deliberations, the jurors agreed.

The punishment phase of Mr. Smith's trial begins today, and Mr. Smith faces punishment ranging from probation to 20 years in prison for the second-degree felony charge.

In September 2004, a jury heard the same allegations and deliberated 16 hours before becoming deadlocked, causing a mistrial. After the guilty verdict Thursday, Mr. Smith – who had been free on bond – was taken into custody until the punishment hearing concludes.


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Pastor tells judge, 'I'm set up' by wife, Fort Pierce Police Chief Savage


FORT PIERCE, Florida — The issue at trial is whether a man went uninvited to a house where his estranged wife was staying and hit her.

But the question at the heart of the defense and behind many of the questions asked Thursday was whether the estranged wife, a secretary at the police department, was having an affair with her boss.

The Rev. Paul Smith, 46, of Palm City is charged with burglary with a battery against his wife, Rose Smith, in connection with the incident on May 23, 2004. Both sides presented evidence in the case Thursday and closing arguments are scheduled for this morning, with the case likely going to the jury later in the day.

Paul Smith claims the charge against him is part of a conspiracy between his wife and Fort Pierce Police Chief Eugene Savage, while Rose Smith denies having an affair. The Smiths are in the process of getting a divorce, but it is not final.

They both took the stand Thursday to give differing accounts of what happened that morning and why their marriage fell apart.

Rose Smith, secretary to Savage, told jurors her husband became increasingly angry at her starting in January 2004. She finally left him in May 2004 and went to stay with a friend.

"I felt he was going to do something," she said. "He was displaying anger in many different ways."

She said she woke up on the couch at her friend's house around 5:30 a.m. on the day of incident to find Smith, who came in through an unlocked sliding glass door, shaking her awake. He told her to come with him to talk with a pastor and when she refused, he struck her several times in the head, she said.

Her sister, who was sleeping in the next room, woke up and saw Smith standing over her. The sister told him to leave and he took the family dog and left.

Rose Smith went to the hospital for treatment and testified her head was pounding after the incident. A Port St. Lucie police officer who investigated said he didn't see any visible injuries.

Paul Smith traced the collapse of the marriage back to 2001 when he shut down a profitable cleaning business to answer the call of the ministry, he said. His wife was not happy with his decision and tension grew between them.

Paul Smith testified he became suspicious in 2003 that his wife might be cheating on him with Savage and confronted her several times, finally asking her to leave the house if she wouldn't stop seeing Savage. He admitted to going to the house the morning of the incident, but said his wife invited him and he denied striking her.

"I love my wife. I've never hurt her and never would," he said.

Savage's ex-wife, Gwendolyn Boyd, was the final defense witness. She testified she discovered Rose Smith at Savage's home after Hurricane Frances in September 2004; she found a negligee and discovered Rose Smith partly undressed in a guest bathroom at the house, she said.

Though Paul Smith said he talked with Boyd several times about his suspicions prior to the May incident, she said she first heard from him in June 2004. Boyd, who is the police chief for the North Miami Police Department, divorced Savage in April 2005.

In statements that did not go before the jury, Paul Smith said his wife concocted false charges against him with the input of Savage.

"The whole process is corrupt," he told Judge Burton Conner before the trial began. "Everybody in this courtroom knows I'm set up."

Smith is the former pastor of Miracle Baptist Mission of East Stuart and founder of a Treasure Coast prison ministry. He fled the area after warrants were issued in 2004, but returned to Fort Pierce and was arrested in July 2005 outside a City Commission meeting.

He faces four counts of aggravated stalking after being accused of contacting his wife several times against the terms of a domestic violence injunction.

For roughly a year, Savage and Rose Smith have been the target of anonymous letters written by people claiming to be Fort Pierce police employees. The letters, addressed to city and county officials and the media, express support for Paul Smith and accuse Savage of abusing his position.


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Guthrie police officer arrested


GUTHRIE, Oklahoma - A Guthrie police officer was arrested and jailed Wednesday after being charged with five counts of second-degree rape, two counts of lewd acts with a minor and one count of indecent proposal.
Officer Aaron Craig Lansdown, 29, was arrested by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, Logan County Assistant District Attorney Lori Hines said.

Lansdown joined the department four years ago, Guthrie Police Chief Damon Devereaux said.

"OSBI did the investigation and we're doing our own internal investigation as per policy," he said. "This type of behavior is taken very seriously and it's a big blow to our department and our community to have an officer brought up on charges, any charges, and especially these."


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Thursday, September 29, 2005

 

Priest pleads guilty to storing child porn on computer


NEW BEDFORD, Mass. --A New Bedford priest has pleaded guilty to storing hundreds of images of child pornography on a computer and tricking a 16-year-old into filming himself performing a sex act.

Fernandes, 55, entered the plea on charges of possession and distribution of child pornography and posing a child in a state of nudity during a hearing at New Bedford Superior Court on Monday. Judge Robert Kane said he needed to review the case further before sentencing Fernandes.

Prosecutors asked for a three-year prison sentence, but Kane said his sentence would be lighter than prosecutors requested.

Fernandes has been suspended as pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Church. Fernandes is still technically a priest, but is not allowed to act as a representative of the church, according to a spokesman for the diocese.

Assistant District Attorney Joan Fund said Fernandes had about 650 pictures and 114 videos of children engaging in sex acts. She also said that he used an instant messaging service to pretend he was a 19-year-old woman and coerced a 16-year-old boy to film himself performing a sex act.

The pornographic images were discovered after Fernandes sent his laptop computer to DEG Associates, a computer servicing company in Fall River, complaining it was running slowly and could have had a virus.

DEG technicians notified the Fall River Diocese after they discovered the movies and pictures. The diocese passed the case to the district attorney. Fernandes was arrested last November.


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Married Priest Accused of Beating Wife


Morristown, NJ - Grand jurors in Morris County have upgraded charges against a married Roman Catholic priest who is accused of beating his wife.

The panel indicted the Reverend William Winston on two counts of aggravated assault yesterday.

The 51-year-old cleric had been charged with simple assault and domestic violence.

Winston has been on leave from Saint Virgil's Roman Catholic Parish in Morris Township since his arrest in November. The priest allegedly threw his wife to the floor in the church rectory and kicked her.

The Roman Catholic Church allows married priests from other religions who convert to Catholicism to stay married. Winston had been a priest in the Episcopal Church.


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Priest, music teacher accused of sex abuse


TAMPA - Two more lawsuits have been filed against Tampa's Mary Help of Christians School, accusing a priest and a music teacher of sexually abusing boys in their care.

Eight suits now have been filed since 2002 accusing priests or teachers of child molestation. The two recent suits were filed Tuesday in Hillsborough Circuit Court.

One says the plaintiff enrolled in the school in 1980 for the sixth grade. On 20 or more occasions starting in September 1982, a music teacher sexually abused him, the suit says.

Years after the music teacher left the school in 1984, he continued to have a sexual relationship with the plaintiff, the suit says.

The second suit says the plaintiff enrolled in the school in 1989 in the sixth grade.

After catching the boy urinating behind the school, a priest called him to the back of the altar and prayed while he fondled the boy, the suit says.

Both suits say the plaintiffs suffered psychological damage. Each seeks more than $5-million in damages from defendants, the Salesian Society and Mary Help of Christian Schools.


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Ex-St. Francis pastor accused of abuse


CENTERVILLE, Ohio - The Franciscan order of the Roman Catholic Church is investigating sexual misconduct allegations against the Rev. John Turnbull, 76, a former pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Centerville.

Worshippers heard the news when the Rev. Tom Schmidt, the current pastor, read an official letter at Masses Sept. 10 and 11. A similar letter was read at Holy Family parish at Oldenburg, Ind., where Turnbull has been working the past three years. Toni Cashnelli, spokeswoman for the Franciscans' St. John the Baptist province, Cincinnati, said the accuser is a man who says he was abused while a parochial school student at Streator, Ill., during the late 1970s. The Diocese of Peoria has been informed of the allegation, she said.

No other abuse accusations have been brought but the order welcomes any information, the letter stated. Friar Jim Van Vurst (who can be reached at (513) 721-4700, Ext. 3214) is taking all reports.

Turnbull had pastor or associate pastor jobs at Lafayette, Ind.; Peoria, Fort Wayne and Batesville, Ind., Streator and Cincinnati before he was assigned to the Centerville parish in 1993-2002.

When Turnbull left Centerville, the Franciscans gave up staffing the parish and three others because of a shortage of personnel, and its leadership reverted to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, archdiocesan spokesman Dan Andriacco said.

The allegation will be investigated independently by Praesidium, an Arlington, Texas-based national abuse risk management organization, Cashnelli said. If allegations were proved the accused would be removed from the ministry


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Preacher sentenced to 15 years on molestation charges


HERNANDO, Miss. - A former preacher has been sentenced in Hernando, Mississippi, to 15 years in prison.

Douglas Eugene Parker pleaded guilty to sexually molesting two teenage girls. DeSoto County Circuit Judge Bobby Chamberlin sentenced the 40-year-old Byhalia man on Monday.

Parker once served as the victims' minister. He pleaded guilty on August 10th to one count of sexual assault and one count of fondling. Authorities say the incidents occurred in 2003 and 2004.

Prosecutors worked out a plea agreement in which Parker will serve 15 years in prison for the sexual battery on the first indictment and had 15 years suspended on the second child fondling count. Parker will also have to register as a sex offender upon release.

The victims, who were 14 and 15 at the time of the incidents, are related and Parker was a friend of the family.


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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

 

Judge to review church's priest abuse records


CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa --- The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque has agreed to turn over to a federal magistrate judge more than 200 church documents pertaining to priests accused in three civil suits of sexually abusing young people in Waterloo and elsewhere from the early 1940s through the late 1970s, according to a court order issued late last week.

Federal magistrate John Jarvey will then review the documents in chambers to determine if any of them can be used in the civil suits, according to the order.

Waterloo attorneys Chad Swanson and Tom Staack had asked the court in September to compel the archdiocese to turn over documents pertaining to the three federal civil suits.

The archdiocese objected to the documents being used in court, citing protections under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Iowa Constitution and victim-privacy and third-party privileges. But the archdiocese agreed to the in-chambers inspection, according to Jarvey's order, issued Thursday.

The archdiocese must turn over the documents by Wednesday, according to Jarvey's order. Any documents Jarvey rules as admissible in court would not become public unless entered as evidence in court proceedings. In court motions, Swanson and Staack said that names of other victims or individuals not named in the suits could be stricken from those documents to protect them.

Two of the three suits in question involve former Waterloo residents and priests, alleging abuse here in the 1960s and '70s.

In one suit, former Waterloo resident Kathleen Wach Guertin alleges she was abused by the late Rev. Patrick McElliott in the early 1960s when McElliott was pastor at St. John's Catholic Church and she was a student at the parish school.

In a separate suit, former Waterloo resident Joseph Faucher alleges he was sexually abused by the Rev. William T. Schwartz in the late 1970s when Schwartz was spiritual director at Columbus High School and Faucher was a student there.

Both McElliott and Schwartz each are named in other similar civil suits, most of which were filed this year. McElliott died in 1987. Archdiocesan officials have said Schwartz was removed from priestly duties years ago, received treatment at a facility in Arizona and can no longer represent himself in public as a priest.

In the third suit pertaining to Jarvey's order, former Cedar Rapids resident James Cummins, a correspondent for NBC News, filed federal suit in 2003 against the archdiocese, alleging he was abused by the late Rev. William Roach, a former archdiocese vicar general, when Roach was assigned to Immaculate Conception parish in Cedar Rapids in 1962.

The archdiocese has asked for a summary judgment dismissing the Cummins case. Jarvey has yet to rule on that motion.

At issue in Jarvey's order are 164 church documents pertaining to Schwartz, 49 regarding McElliott and 20 documents in Cummins' case regarding sexual abuse complaints concerning the Rev. Irwin Patnode in 1940 and 1941 --- complaints predating those involving Roach by 20 years.

Legal briefs filed in the Cummins case indicate his attorneys have raised the Patnode complaints in an attempting to establish the archdiocese's decades-long knowledge of and failure to adequately deal with sexual abuse allegations involving its priests.


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Preacher charged with sex crimes



Albany, New York -- Stanley Luther Jones, of Albany, is a traveling minister. He goes from town to town preaching at revivals and other events. But he's now accused of abusing his power and molesting children.

Sheriff's Deputies accompanied Investigators with the Dougherty County District Attorney's office to an apartment on Habersham Road. Inside, they would find, 36-year old Stanley Luther Jones.

Assistant District Attorney, Christopher Cohilas says, "Mr. Jones is a traveling Minister. Apparently he travels all over the Southeast visiting different churches and revivals."

Not anymore. Jones is now in the Dougherty County Jail, charged with three counts of aggravated child molestation and one count of enticing a child for indecent purposes. Cohilas says, "Those three counts of aggravated child molestation, represent three different victims, that a three month investigation indicated that he had victimized for a very extended period of time."

Jones formerly was minister at Albany Worship Center, Church of God in Christ, a Church of God where he is accused of abusing his power. He's charged with having a young girl perform oral sex on him while inside.

"Children are so innocent, because they're quite often vulnerable to people that are in positions of power. They can be very easily taken advantage of, so it's always despicable to see someone do that," says Cohilas. And he hopes Jones' arrest will allow other children to be spared the same fate.

Prosecutors believe there may be more victims. If you have any information, contact the Dougherty County District Attorney's office.


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Bexar deputy sheriff accused of knife assault on girlfriend


Bexar County, Texas - A Bexar County deputy sheriff was arrested Tuesday morning for allegedly attacking and cutting his girlfriend with a knife.

Police charged Geronimo G. Pena, 28, with assault — bodily injury/married or cohabitation, a class C misdemeanor. The charge was upgraded to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a first-degree felony.

Pena posted $15,000 bond and was released Tuesday evening.

Tricia Salazar, 31, Pena's girlfriend, suffered a "small cut" to her right wrist, according to a police report. After cutting Salazar, Pena broke away and cut his own arm, the report stated.

The fray began in the 300 block of Castillo after Pena arrived at Salazar's home. Salazar later told police Pena had been "drinking all day," according to the report.

Pena and Salazar began arguing, and Pena started throwing things at Salazar, breaking lamps and the television set, the report stated. Pena then allegedly grabbed a knife and lunged at Salazar.

According to the report, a witness heard Salazar scream, "Someone help me, he's got a knife."

After a brief struggle, Pena allegedly cut Salazar on her wrist. He then broke away and cut himself on the arms and neck, Salazar told police.

When Pena was arrested at 5 a.m., he had "several scratches to his right forearm that appeared to have been self-inflicted," the report stated. He was treated at University Hospital and then booked.

Pena worked in the Bexar County Detention Center before his arrest.



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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

 

Couple Commits Credit Card Fraud to Pay For Kid's Parochial School Tuition


YH points us to this:

Laguna Hills, California - Asghar Syed, 56, a resident of Laguna Hills, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge S. James Otero to possessing fraudulently obtained credit cards, bank fraud, and money laundering. His wife, Teresa Syed, 53, pleaded guilty Wednesday before Judge Otero to fraudulent use of an unauthorized credit card.

Asghar Syed admitted that he and his wife possessed more than 300 unauthorized credit cards, which were obtained through fraud by using about 95 fictitious names and false financial information. The couple used the cards and did not pay the charges that they were incurring. Asghar Syed admitted that the total loss caused by his activities exceeds $1,000,000.

Asghar Syed also admitted that he applied for and obtained two equity lines of credit from Wells Fargo Bank by using fraudulent representations. One line of credit was in the amount of $240,000; the other was in the amount of $44,000. To obtain the loans, Asghar Syed used the alias "Asghar S. Yed" and falsely stated that he earned $19,300 per month working as a "senior project software manager" at American Technology. In reality, Asghar Syed was unemployed, and American Technology was a fake "front" business that Asghar Syed established in West Covina to make it seem as if he was employed as a high-paid business executive.

Asghar Syed also admitted that he used $3,300 from the funds he obtained by defrauding banks to pay rent to maintain an office for American Technology, his fake "front business."

Teresa Syed admitted to fraudulent use of a credit card issued in the name of another person. She used the card to pay for her child's tuition at a private parochial school in Orange County, as well as other expenses.

Asghar Syed and Teresa Syed are scheduled to be sentenced on November 28, 2005 by Judge Otero. Asghar Syed faces a maximum sentence of 90 years imprisonment and a fine of $2,750,000. Teresa Syed faces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. The government is also pursuing civil forfeiture proceedings to deprive the Syeds of the benefit of their fraudulent activities.

This case is a result of an investigation by the United States Secret Service and IRS-Criminal Investigation Division.



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One jail guard resigns, another suspended in sexual assault probe


PASCO, Wash. -- A Franklin County Jail guard has resigned and another has been suspended in an investigation into a woman inmate's claim that she was sexually assaulted.

The names of the two correctional officers were being withheld, no criminal charges have been filed and the investigation was continuing, Prosecutor Steve M. Lowe said Friday.

The woman, a mother of four, has been transferred to the Benton County Jail in nearby Kennewick at the request of her lawyer, Robert Thompson, who said he was concerned for her safety.

The woman told the Tri-City Herald she had oral sex with a guard twice in August after being told that if she refused, she would not be released from jail in October as scheduled. She also said she saw woman inmates doing "strip shows" for other men in the jail.

She was jailed June 11 and has been serving a six-month sentence for possessing cocaine, records show. Her record also includes convictions for writing bad checks and theft.

Sheriff Richard Lathim, who confirmed the resignation and suspension, said she changed her story several times. At the start of the investigation there was no mention of sexual contact, and when inmates and officers were questioned, "everybody said there was absolutely no sexual contact," Lathim said.

The investigation involves "a couple officers not following rules" and female inmates exposing themselves to other guards, Lathim said.

The woman said she was given a polygraph test by sheriff's deputies. Thompson said investigators have requested a second lie detector test but have yet to contact him about scheduling it.

The investigation marks the second case involving accusations of sexual assault at the lockup in recent years. David Webster, 36, is scheduled for trial Nov. 16 on three counts of first-degree rape involving his 17-year-old male cellmate in September 2003.

The younger man, from Vancouver, Wash., was paid $400,000 from the county's insurance pool last summer to settle a federal lawsuit against the county, the sheriff, jail Capt. Richard Long, Lt. Alma Winklesky and three unnamed jailers.


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Catholic school teacher charged in school sex scandal receives six months in jail


ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ A former Catholic school English teacher arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old student will serve six months in jail as part of a plea deal announced Monday.

Sandra Beth Geisel, 42, will be sentenced in November to six months behind bars, including time already served, according to the Albany County District Attorney's office. She also will have to register as a sex offender.

Geisel - a mother of four - was indicted earlier this month on charges of third-degree rape. She was fired from her teaching job at Christian Brothers Academy in June, soon after police caught her with a 17-year-old student.

No charges were filed in that incident because the teen was of legal age. But during that investigation, a 16-year-old boy came forwarded and said he had sexual intercourse with Geisel on two separate occasions, leading to the charges against her, police said.


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Church Music Director Sentenced


Albany, New York - 43 year-old Malcomb Kogut read off a five-page statement today. Kogut, the former music director at Saint Gabriel's Church in Rotterdam, began by saying he was wrong to have had oral sex with a choirboy.

"As the adult, I knew that this young man was under the age of 17...I should not have engaged in such an immoral and illegal act,” says Malcomb Kogut.

But Kogut emphasized it was a one-time thing and so should be given leniency.

"It was a blinded moment of temptation and weakness and I promise it will never happen again,” said Kogut

That wasn't good enough for the mother and father who call that single victim their son. They wanted no leniency shown.

"...A 40-year-old man should not be doing this to a minor...taking, you know, his childhood away from him,” says the victim's mother.

"We trusted a man who took advantage of a child,” said the victim’s father. “My son is in counseling, not only just talking, he comes home crying. He's devastated.”

Attorney John Aretakis doesn't represent the victim in this case. But he represents several people alleging sexual abuse by priests. He says he's not surprised Kogut’s sentencing comes on the same day as the rape sentencing for former Christian Brothers Academy teacher Beth Geisel.

“What it shows is that the crisis in the Catholic Church and in catholic institutions and schools is far from over,” says Aretakis.


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The Roman Catholic Church of Corruption


Commentary by Mel Seesholtz in the Online Journal:

September 27, 2005—Dante reserved the lowest circle of hell—the circle of treachery—for those who violated trust. He placed quite a few priests, church leaders, and popes there. They’ll be getting lots of company . . .

The larger than usual headline of the Philadelphia Inquirer last Thursday read, “An ‘Immoral’ Cover-up.” A grand jury indicted the Philadelphia archdiocese in a 418-page report detailing rampant pedophilia and sexual abuse as well as decades of well planned, sinister cover-up orchestrated by two Philadelphia cardinals, (the late) John Krol and (recently retired) Anthony Bevilacqua. Krol was and Bevilacqua is an outspoken critic of homosexuality and civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans.

Here are just a few of the documented examples of what predator priests did under the protection of Krol and Bevilacqua:

  • An 11-year-old girl was repeatedly raped by a priest who took her for an abortion when she became pregnant.


  • A fifth grader was molested by a priest inside a confessional.


  • A teenage girl was groped by a priest while she lay immobilized in traction in a hospital room.


  • A priest offered money to boys in exchange for sadomasochistic acts of bondage and wrote a letter asking a boy to make him his “slave.” The priest remains in ministry.


  • A sadistic priest enjoyed having children play the roles of Jesus and other biblical characters in parish Passion plays. He made them disrobe and whip each other until they had cuts, bruises and welts.


  • A priest falsely told a 12-year-old boy his mother knew of the assaults and consented to the rape of her son.


The grand jury found that many victims were abused for years and that many priests abused multiple victims, sometimes preying on members of the same family. Father Albert T. Kostelnick had 18 victims. Father James J. Brzyski, whose conduct the report described as a “criminal rampage,” abused 17 victims, many of them from a single parish. Father Nicholas V. Cudemo abused 16 victims and was allowed to stay in his pastoral role for decades after the first abuse report in 1966.

And how did the archdiocese respond to the grand jury’s painstakingly documented report? In a truly disgusting display of perverted self-interest and bunker mentality, they claimed to be victims.

Even more disgusting is that no criminal charges can be filed against the priests or against “Prince of the Church” Bevilacqua, despite the evidence presented in the grand jury’s report:

After reviewing thousands of documents from Archdiocese files and hearing . . . from over a hundred witnesses, we, the Grand Jurors, were taken aback by the extent of sexual exploitation within the Philadelphia Archdiocese. . . .

For any who might want to believe that the abuse problem in the Philadelphia area was limited in scope, this Report will disabuse them of that impression. The Jurors heard from some victims who were sexually abused once or twice, and from many more who were abused week after week for years. . . . Indeed, the evidence arising from the Philadelphia Archdiocese reveals criminality against minors on a widespread scale—sparing no geographic sector, no income level, no ethnic group. We heard testimony about priests molesting and raping children in rectory bedrooms, in church sacristies, in parked cars, in swimming pools, at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, at the priests’ vacation houses in the Poconos and the Jersey shore, in the children’s schools and even in their own homes. . . .

Cardinal Bevilacqua, Cardinal Krol and their top aides all abdicated their duty to protect children. They concealed priests’ sexual abuses instead of exposing them. . . .

There is no doubt that the cardinals and their top aides knew that Philadelphia priests were abusing children. There is no doubt that these officials engaged in a continuous, concerted campaign of cover-up over the priests’ sexual offenses. . . .

Sexually abusive priests were either left quietly in place or ‘recycled’ to unsuspecting new parishes—vastly expanding the number of children who were abused. . . .

Documents clearly established that Cardinal Bevilacqua knew that the priests had admitted abusing minors. They also established that he alone was responsible for subsequently placing or leaving the priests in parishes where they would present a severe danger to children. . . .

Cardinal Bevilacqua had a strict policy, according to his aides, that forbid informing parishioners . . . The Cardinal, in fact, encouraged that parishioners be misinformed. . . .

Cardinal Bevilacqua was trained as an attorney . . . The Grand Jurors find that in his handling of priests’ sexual abuse, Cardinal Bevilacqua was motivated by an intent to keep the record clear of evidence that would implicate him or the Archdiocese. To this end, he continued many of the practices of his predecessor, Cardinal Krol, aimed at avoiding scandal, while also introducing policies that reflected a growing awareness that dioceses and bishops might be held legally responsible for their negligent and knowing actions that abetted known predators. . . .

To protect themselves from negative publicity or expensive lawsuits—while keeping abusive priests active—the cardinals and their aides hid the priests’ crimes from parishioners, police and the general public.

Archdiocese officials at the highest levels received reports of abuse . . . They chose not to conduct any meaningful investigation . . . They left dangerous priests in place or transferred them to different parishes as a means of concealment . . . They never alerted parents of the dangers poses by these offenders . . . They intimidated and retaliated against victims and witnesses . . . They manipulated "treatment" efforts in order to create a false impression of action . . . They did many of these things in a conscious effort to simply to avoid civil liability.


Moreover, while treating abusers gently, with good wishes and promotions (Bevilacqua included one molester, the Rev. Albert Kostelnick [who had the greatest number of victims], at a 1997 luncheon honoring priests, and promoted him, even though the church had received a constant stream of abuse allegations against him, including an eyewitness account from a fellow priest) the grand jury found that the cardinal had lashed out at those within the diocese who tried to raise an alarm. After a seminarian came forward to report an abuser priest, “Cardinal Bevilacqua ordered an investigation—of the seminarian.” Bevilacqua refused to allow the seminarian to complete his studies and forced him to seek ordination outside the diocese.

And what did Bevilacqua have to say when he testified before the grand jury? As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, “in his testimony before the Grand Jury, Cardinal Bevilacqua was still attempting to evade responsibility for placing known sexual offenders in parishes where they had easy access to hundreds of children . . . He often suggested he might not have known all the facts and that he delegated the handling of these matters to his Secretary of Clergy. He repeatedly claimed to have no memory of incidents and priests we will never forget.”

Despite overwhelming evidence against priests, cardinals and numerous members of the church hierarchy, the statute of limitations has run out. So the Catholic Church has once again gotten away with crimes against humanity while the depravity and cover-up continue at the highest level.

Pope Benedict XVI’s widely publicized—and strategically timed—plan to purge seminaries of gays is a transparent attempt to shift blame from the corrupt, immoral Church to “homosexuals.” The facts about pedophilia and homosexuality in no way support the pope’s initiative.

The clinical separation of homosexuality and child molesting was acknowledged by the appearance of the words “pedophilia” and “pedophile.” From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Pædophilia. An abnormal, esp. sexual, love of young children.

1906 H. ELLIS Stud. Psychol. Sex V. i. 11 Paidophilia or the love of children . . . may be included under this head [sc. abnormality]. 1926 Med. Jrnl. & Rec. CXXIV. 161/1 One must keep clearly in mind in dealing with pedophilia the distinction between that mediating homosexuality, and the much more pure perversion which is our subject. . . . Hence pædophiliac, -philic adjs., pertaining to or characterized by pædophilia; also as n., a pædophilic person.

1927 Psychoanal. Review XIV. 191 It is only in rare cases that one encounters an individual who has pedophilic predilections and at the same time is suffering from venereal disease. Ibid., Krafft-Ebing . . . in his attempt at psychological explanation falls back on ‘a morbid disposition only’ on the part of the pedophalic [sic] as the motivating factor.

1960 Spectator 8 July 69 The . . . survey . . . shows the paedophiliac to be a type altogether distinct from the adult-seeking homosexual. . . .

1976 Publishers Weekly 26 Apr. 52/1 He contacted fellow pedophiliacs and through them was able to sample many kinds of young girls.


Kathryn Conroy is assistant dean of Columbia University’s School of Social Work. She recently pointed out in The New York Times, “What is forgotten in all of the hysteria about priest sexual abuse is that pedophilia is about a sexual attraction to children (most often, regardless of their sex) and about access.” Dr. Conroy also made the most pertinent point in relation to the pope’s ruse:

Reliable studies show that pedophiles (those adults who sexually abuse children) are overwhelmingly heterosexual. In fact, homosexuals are statistically underrepresented as those who sexually abuse children. . . .

Further, women have far lower rates of sexually abusing children than men do. So if the church were really serious about protecting children from sexual abuse by priests, gays would not be excluded from the priesthood and ordination would be extended to women.


Aside from ordering an “Apostolic Visitation,” the revered Pope John Paul II did virtually nothing about the church’s sex scandal or its predator priests. Given the nature of the Vatican and the plethora of mass-media reports, John Paul II had to know about the massive immoral cover-up carried out by his underlings. Joseph Ratzinger was an ideological clone of John Paul and one of the most politically conservative cardinals. His nickname was “God’s Rottweiler” and “the Enforcer.” He’s now Pope Benedict XVI. Like Cardinal Bevilacqua and his predecessor Cardinal Krol, Benedict XVI isn’t interested in protecting children from predator priests or acknowledging the corruption rampant in the church’s hierarchy. The Vatican is interested solely in protecting itself, its power, and its political campaign against gay and lesbian people.



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Pastor removed from post


Philadelphia - The Philadelphia Archdiocese on Sunday ended the assignment of a priest accused of molesting at least six seventh-grade boys at St. Mary Elementary School in Schwenksville between 1989 and 1990.

Robert L. Brennan‚ accused of molesting a total of more than 20 boys from four different parishes‚ was relieved of his assignment as chaplain at a retirement home for nuns‚ the archdiocese said in a brief statement Monday.

Citing the “extraordinary attention” Brennan and another priest had received‚ the archdiocese said the two would remain without assignments until “such time as a permanent‚ long-term plan can be determined.”

The other priest‚ John H. Mulholland‚ was described in the Philadelphia grand jury’s report released last week on the clergy sex scandal as “sick and dangerous” and accused of having “strung up” a young boy and “piercing him or at least jabbing him with some instrument all over his body.”

The grand jury report accused the archdiocese of ignoring numerous reports that Brennan had abused boys‚ even before he was placed at St. Mary in 1989.

While a pastor at St. Ignatius in Yardley‚ Bucks County‚ in 1988‚ Brennan was accused of behaving inappropriately with a 13-year-old boy. The boy told an archdiocese official that “Brennan held him tightly on his lap‚ so that the boy could not escape‚ and rubbed his ‘belly’ and touched his ‘butt.”’

Even though the archdiocese identified six other boys who had been abused – including one who spent nights at the rectory – Brennan was placed at St. Mary after he told a therapist that he had not behaved inappropriately. The therapist was not given the opportunity to talk to the alleged victims.

In March of 1991‚ five seventh-grade boys at St. Mary school told their principal Karen Coldwell that they’d been “inappropriately touched.” Years later one of the boys told the grand jury that Brennan had once summoned him into the rectory where the priest was watching a pornographic movie.

Though Coldwell referred the complaint to the archdiocese‚ she told the grand jury she was exasperated that nothing was done to restrict Brennan‚ and even began checking up on him from time to time herself.

In 1992‚ another parent reported that Brennan touched her son inappropriately during “private lessons.” A nun in the rectory told a church official that Brennan grabbed and wrestled with altar boys and high school students. “She said he had ‘special ones’ including one whom she described as a ‘disturbed’ boy.”

Coldwell‚ now a principal elsewhere in the area‚ would not speak to a reporter.

Church officials at St. Mary did not return calls.

Brennan was again transferred‚ though reports of abuse continued for years. Former Philadelphia Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua told the grand jury that “Brennan’s behavior‚ including being caught on top of a boy in the sacristy‚ was merely a matter of ‘boundary issues.’”

No restrictions were placed on Brennan until 2004‚ when he was assigned as a chaplain to a retired nuns’ home.

One longtime St. Mary church member said there had been persistent rumors about Brennan.

Though Brennan was “worse than Judas‚” there were many priests who were good men‚ said the woman‚ who asked not to be identified because she’s still active in the church.

“I think that every priest‚ every bishop‚ every cardinal‚ every person who enabled (the abusive priests) should be in jail‚ and to know that my cardinals – who are next to the pope – enabled them sickens me‚” she said.


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Sunday, September 25, 2005

 

Weekly church-related crime update, September 18- 24



  • Carlton Kneeland, pastor of Greater Emmanuel Christian Assembly in Memphis, was arrested and charged with obtaining money by false pretenses after Olive Branch, Mississippi police said he wrote checks totaling eleven-thousand-dollars on a closed bank account, reported WVLT-TV.

  • Donald Buzanowski, a priest at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School in Green Bay, Wisc., was sentenced to 21 years in prison for sexually assaulting a ten-year old student at the school. Buzanowski had previously been convicted on a child porongraphy charge, and has admitted to molesting 14 boys.

  • Gene Francis, the pastor at the Church of the Nazarene in Lake Wales, Florida who had been charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor, a 17-year-old boy, accepted a plea bargain in which he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to one year probation.

  • The Mississippi Supreme Court blocked the immediate release of United Methodist Church documents to a woman who had filed a $10 million lawsuit against a minister who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting her. The court ruled that a lower court must first review the documents, removing those that are protected by priest-penitent privilege. The case revolves around Jeffrey Stallworth, pastor of Anderson United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, who had pleaded guilty to sexually assualting the woman.

  • Mary Elizabeth Miller, a former student at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, was sentenced to nine months in jail for hit-and-run. She had run over a woman on the Lynchburg Expressway and left the scene.

  • Earl D. Cooper, an ordained minister in Lexington, Oklahoma who had been sentenced to life in prison for fatally shooting his wife and mother-in-law in front of his daughter, has been recommended for early release by the state state Pardon and Parole Board, reported the Oklahoman. Cooper had previously been additionally convicted of assault and battery four times.

  • Sam Roundy, a former Colorado City, Arizona Police chief who is an admitted polygamist, having fathered 21 children with three women, told state police investigators that he that he "failed to notify state authorities about the 20 to 25 child sexual abuse cases he's investigated over the years in Colorado City and Hildale, Utah," reported KPHO News. "Most of the residents of Colorado City and Hildale are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which preaches polygamy as a central tenet."

  • "The leaders of the Philadelphia Archdiocese — including two former archbishops — actively concealed sexual abuse by priests for decades, but no criminal charges can be brought against the church or its priests because of the constraints of state law, according to grand jury findings," reported the Allentown Morning Call.

  • William Mueller, a priest at Vianney High School in Kirkwood, Missouri, was sued by a man who said that Mueller sexually assaulted him at knifepoint when he, the plaintiff, was 15 years old and a student at the school. Mueller was previously sued by two men in Colorado who say Mueller sexually abused them after he knocked them out with ether.

  • The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) urged "Bishop Robert Finn and a Boy Scout headquarters in St. Joseph to remove the name of the late Rev. Sylvester Hoppe from the chapel at Camp Geiger in St. Joseph," reported the Kansas City Star. "In the last three years, three men have filed lawsuits against the diocese claiming that Hoppe sexually abused them in the 1950s. The diocese settled one lawsuit for $10,000; the other two are still pending."

  • Peter Cheplic, a priest at St. Matthew's Church in Ridgefield, New Jersey, resigned after two men have accused him of abusing them as teenagers.

  • Andrew Burke, "a former Catholic priest who was under investigation for molesting a teenage boy in the early 1970s committed suicide Wednesday by shooting himself in the heart," reported the Pueblo [Colorado] Chieftan.

  • Jack F. Emerick, former pastor at Grace United Methodist Church in Harrison, Pennsylvania, was sentenced "to 13 months in prison on tax fraud charges in connection with money he is accused of stealing from a longtime church member," reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Emerick had resigned from the church after allegations had been made that he had molested a boy and two men in the 1970s and 1980s.

  • Jack Ruff, the senior pastor at the Praise Tabernacle Church in Charlotte County, Florida who was the subject of arrest warrants charging him with defrauding dozens of Hurricane Charley victims out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, was captured in Livingston, Montana, where he was allegedly posing as a Hurricane Katrina evacuee from Louisiana.

  • William Killeen, the pastor at St. Christopher Church in Midlothian, Ill. who was transfered to Infant Jesus of Prague Church in Flossmoor, Ill., is under investiagation for missing funds at both churches, the Chicago Star reported.

  • Charles Hill, pastor at St. Mark Ame Church in Clermont, Florida, was arrested for cashing tens of thousands of dollars in fake checks, reported WFTV News. Police said Hill "used fake checks to buy appliances, open bank accounts and even buy a car. Detectives said, in one instance, Hill deposited an $80,000 check at Bank of America and opened an account. Then, before anyone suspected the checks were fake, he bought a car at Chrysler. Detectives said Hill did the same thing at Rent Way. He walked in with a fake cashier check and bought merchandise and then pocketed the extra money... He apparently lived in a house rent-free. Hill was evicted after writing fake checks."

  • William J. Hogan, youth pastor at West Valley Foursquare Church in Yakima, Washington, was given a 41-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to second-degree child molestation and third-degree child rape in a case involving a 13-year-old girl he met at the church. The girl went to police, saying Hogan was was "grooming another girl at church."

  • Nathaniel Rasberry, pastor of World Vision Outreach Center in Wilson, N.C, was arrested on charges of incest of a child, parental sex offense, 19 counts of statutory rape, felony child abuse and nine counts of assault and inflicting serious injury.

  • Harry Monroe, a priest at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Indianapolis, was named in a sexual abuse lawsuit along with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Monroe had earlier been named in another lawsuit, which claimed the priest molested a teenage boy at St. Andrew Catholic School. Monroe had been "relieved of ministry" in 1984 because of allegations of sexual misconduct, and both lawsuits claim the diocese should have known about Monroe's behavior and protected the children under his care.

  • Joseph Cogo, pastor of Our Lady of Pompei Church in New york, was accused of rape by a woman who had saught him out for spiritual guidance in the 1970s, reported the Villager.

  • Officials at Central Catholic High School in San Antonio, Texas, sent letters to alumni of the school notifying them of three sexual abuse lawsuits filed against former Brother William Mueller, who worked at the school from 1971 to 1981.

  • Ron Clark, the former pastor of Church of the Living Water, a "megachurch" in Tampa, Florida, has become a police officer with the city of Zephyrhills, reported the Tampa Tribune. Clark became the center of controversy at the church in 2003, when

    the church unraveled as Clark and his wife, Belinda, became embroiled in a bitter divorce. The proceedings brought to light the church's hefty assets -- as well as the assets of the Clarks. The pair each drew salaries of $70,000 and owned a $500,000 horse farm in Dade City and a $275,000 rental home in Celebration, near Orlando, the case revealed. Although the Clarks never were charged with illegal activity, the information from their divorce case disillusioned the congregation's almost 2,000 members. By October 2003, the church filed for bankruptcy.

  • Tracy Hash, a former singer with the gospel foursome The Spiritual Seven, was found guilty of molesting a 9-year-old girl in Bedford, Virginia.

  • Efford Haynes, a trustee of Christ Community Church in Seneca, South Carolina, was ordered by a court to pay $9,850 to a neighbor of the church who Haynes had cheated of her land and the trees on it. The case involved a forged deed.

  • Chris Thomas Miller, youth pastor of Praise Assembly of God in Bunnell, Florida, charged with six counts of child molestation involving two girls he befriended through his role in the church, reported the Daytona Beach News-Journal.


  • See the continuation of this list in the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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    Pastor charged in prostitution sting


    Oakland, Calif. — A local pastor was arrested Thursday night after negotiating a $20 oral sex act, police said.

    The Rev. Craig Ward flagged a female undercover officer over to his church-issued BMW just after 10:30 p.m., police said.

    "It was blatant," said Officer Mark Turpin, a member of the Oakland Police Department vice squad. "He wasn't there trying to save anybody."

    Ward, 40, is pastor of the Brookins African Methodist Episcopal Church on 73rd Avenue in Oakland. He was arrested on the 1400 block of 38th Avenue during a prostitution sting that netted dozens of suspected hookers, johns and pimps.

    It was the third time the clergyman has been arrested and charged for soliciting a prostitute.

    Ward was convicted of the crime in 2002 and again last year in Oakland, police said. He also spent four years in prison for a 1997 burglary and returned later for carrying a weapon in his car, police said.

    Calls to church leaders were not returned Friday. AME Bishop John Bryant was out of town at a conference and could not be reached, his assistant at the church's district headquarters in Los Angeles said. Church elder Booker T. Guyton also did not return calls.

    Turpin and as many as 70 other officers were on the streets of East Oakland between 6:30 p.m. and midnight Thursday decoying as prostitutes and johns, or providing backup to make the arrests. An Alameda County sheriff's deputy also assisted, Turpin said.

    The 51/2-hour sting resulted in a total of 68 arrests — 32 johns, two pimps and 34 prostitutes. Three of the prostitutes arrested were juveniles as young as 14, police said. Police also charged two men with selling narcotics Thursday.

    Officers towed 22 cars belonging to the suspected johns, including trucks belonging to two contractors arrested Thursday for attempting to purchase sex.

    One man attempted to pick up an undercover decoy from the back seat of a taxicab, Turpin said.

    Police have made several hundred arrests since they began these weekly — sometimes biweekly — prostitution stings last year, Lt. Mike Yoell said.

    Local police have made the stings a priority because they say prostitutes bring with them crime, pimps, drug dealing, guns and theft.

    Nearly half the prostitutes and johns arrested Thursday were from out of town, Turpin said.

    "We don't want'em in our town," he said.


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    Police charge youth pastor with molestation



    BUNNELL, Florida -- The youth pastor of Praise Assembly of God here has been charged with six counts of child molestation involving two girls he befriended through his role in the church, investigators said Saturday.

    The Rev. Chris Thomas Miller, 26, 9 Rose Place, Palm Coast, was arrested Friday evening and remained Saturday at Flagler County Inmate Facility on $100,000 bail on lewd and lascivious molestation charges, said county Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debra Johnson.

    Investigators said Miller provided details of incidents within the past eight weeks involving the girls, both younger than 16, when confronted during an interview at the Sheriff's office.

    On Saturday afternoon, leaders at the church, 1686 E. State Road 100, began notifying parents. Teachers at the church's school, which offers classes from kindergarten through ninth grade, were called in for a special meeting. Before the meeting, a group of grim-faced faculty members clustered in the parking lot, apparently stunned by the news.

    To allow time for parishioners to be informed and ask questions, the Rev. Paula Wilburn said, but said the church likely would not make any public statements until Monday. Church services today were scheduled to go ahead as planned, she said.

    Investigators said the two girls came forward accusing Miller of victimized them. Miller is one of two pastors listed on the church's marquee, along with a senior pastor, the Rev. Don Wilburn. Authorities were uncertain how long Miller has been with the church.

    "Parents need to be in tune with their children because you never know where or when your child may be at risk," said Detective Stacy Pate, the sheriff's lead investigator in the case.

    The Sheriff's Office is asking parents to contact Detective Stacy Pate at (386) 446-7625 if they have children who may have been victimized by Miller.


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    Saturday, September 24, 2005

     

    Seneca preacher pays for taking land with forged deed


    SENECA, S.C. — A Seneca preacher has been ordered to pay $9,850 to a neighbor who said she was cheated of her land and the trees on it.

    The Rev. Efford Haynes must pay Mary L. Walker the money plus court costs of $485, said 10th Judicial Circuit Master in Equity, Ellis Drew.

    Mr. Drew ruled that a deed prepared by Mr. Haynes and his daughter, Saverne Haynes, is void and has no legal effect.

    Therefore, Ms. Walker’s land has been returned to her. According to court records, Ms. Walker thought she was signing a deed to give a five-foot strip of her land to the Christ Community Church for parking. Ms. Walker was promised $400 for the strip of land.

    However, the deed prepared by Saverne Haynes described the parcel of land as half of Ms. Walker’s lot.

    Attorney Robert Whitney, who represented Ms. Walker, said the deed was forged, no money was paid Ms. Walker and the trees were cut off of Ms. Walker’s property. Mr. Haynes testified that he did not pay Ms. Walker for the land because one of his family members was owed a debt by a member of Ms. Walker’s family.

    Mr. Haynes and a number of his family members are listed as trustees of Christ Community Church, an independent church also named in the order.

    A chain link fence surrounds the brick church on the corner of Abbott and Poplar streets in the Abbott subdivision of Seneca. The Prayer House Revival Center is also inside the fence, next door to the church.

    Mr. Haynes hired Clemson Engineering Services to prepare a survey for Christ Community Church, which showed an iron pin set 5 feet above Ms. Walker’s property line, according to court records. However, the survey was not used in the description of the property on the deed prepared by Mr. Haynes.

    Mr. Drew also said that the signature of David Walker, Mary Walker’s brother, on the deed was not made by Mr. Walker.
    Mr. Haynes made that signature, according to his own sworn testimony.

    "I reported the forgery to the Secretary of State who allegedly oversees notaries public," Mr. Whitney said. "That agency said they have no authority to pull notary licenses."

    Mr. Haynes also hired a crew to cut down trees on Ms. Walker’s land. According to an expert witness hired by Mr. Haynes, the value of the trees cut from Ms. Walker’s property was no less than $8,000.

    Mr. Drew ruled that Ms. Walker not only lost the valuable trees, but the scenic beauty and the benefit of having the trees in her landscape.

    The Court of Common Pleas complaint dated back to Oct. 8, 2001, but was not settled until Wednesday. Attempts to reach Mr. Haynes on Friday were unsuccessful.


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    A former local gospel singer is found guilty of child molestation...


    Bedford, Virginia - A former gospel singer for nearly 20 years is found guilty of molesting a 9-year-old girl.

    Tracy Hash toured the country and our area singing Christian music -- he's now facing four felony child molestation charges in Bedford for abuse reported in March.

    To avoid his trial -- set to start on Tuesday -- Hash was left with two options.

    "Based on the evidence we had it was either plead guilty or face a jury," Bedford Commonwealth Attorney, Randy Krantz, said.

    Hash admitted the state had enough evidence to convict him. The judge found him guilty.

    He could get life in prison for abusing the 9-year-old girl.


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    Sheriff's Deputy Pleads Guilty To Sex Crimes


    HOLDENVILLE, Okla. (AP) -- A former Hughes County sheriff's deputy pleads guilty to four felony sex crimes for touching several teenage boys during the past five years.

    Michael Allen Carter pleaded guilty on Tuesday to lewd molestation and three counts of sexual battery. He also pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

    A sentencing hearing has been set for October 25th.

    Carter's jury trial was set to begin Thursday. He's accused of touching four teenage boys and providing beer to two others.

    He was arrested in November, 2004.

    Carter's plea for the four felonies was an Alford plea of guilty, which is like pleading guilty without admitting guilt. His plea for the misdemeanor charges was a regular guilty plea.


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    Megachurch's Ex-Pastor To Join Zephyrhills Police


    ZEPHYRHILLS, Florida - Ron Clark, the high-profile former pastor of a troubled Tampa megachurch, will hit the streets of this east Pasco city as a police officer next week.

    Clark, 48, passed the department's background check, drug screen, physical agility test, psychological screen and oral interview. In his interview, he acknowledged a checkered personal history, Zephyrhills Police Chief Russell Barnes said.

    "His files are clear," Barnes said.

    In the summer of 2003, Clark's name grabbed headlines.

    For 15 years, Clark led the once-thriving Church of the Living Water on Interstate 4, a nondenominational congregation whose members gave $2 million annually.

    That summer, however, the church unraveled as Clark and his wife, Belinda, became embroiled in a bitter divorce.

    The proceedings brought to light the church's hefty assets -- as well as the assets of the Clarks. The pair each drew salaries of $70,000 and owned a $500,000 horse farm in Dade City and a $275,000 rental home in Celebration, near Orlando, the case revealed.

    Although the Clarks never were charged with illegal activity, the information from their divorce case disillusioned the congregation's almost 2,000 members. By October 2003, the church filed for bankruptcy.

    Meanwhile, as the case drew publicity, Clark in July 2003 ended a nine-month stint with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, where he was a reserve deputy and part-time chaplain.

    Barnes said the Zephyrhills Police Department reviewed Clark's personnel files from that time and checked with the sheriff's internal affairs division. Clark's background check came back clear, Barnes said.

    "The only red flags were the ones he gave us to go check out. They were maybe not red flags but cautionary flags," Barnes said.

    Those flags had to do with Clark's financial history, the chief said.

    "His bankruptcy came back. I've even had one of those. Situations happen."

    Clark, who Barnes said lives in Dade City, could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

    Starting salary for a police officer in Zephyrhills, a city with a year-round population of about 12,000, is $30,695.

    City Manager Steve Spina, who signs off on new hires, said he signed Clark's hiring form but at the time did not realize who he was.

    "It's a little surprising," Spina said.

    "The only red flags were the ones he gave us to go check out."


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    San Antonio notifies alumni about lawsuits


    SAN ANTONIO — Central Catholic High School officials are notifying alumni about lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a former band director at the San Antonio school.

    Three suits were filed this week in Pueblo, Colo., and one in St. Louis against the U.S. Province of the Society of Mary, naming former Brother William Mueller, 67, of San Antonio. Mueller worked at Central Catholic from 1971 to 1981.

    "We are not aware of any complaints regarding his service here at Central Catholic," Father Joseph Tarrillion, president of the San Antonio school, said in a letter sent Thursday to all who attended Central Catholic between 1971 and 1984.

    His one-page letter invites concerned alumni to notify authorities in San Antonio or St. Louis of any allegations of improper behavior by Mueller.

    The latest suit was filed Wednesday in Pueblo, Colo., by a 52-year-old man who alleged Mueller masturbated and fondled him on several occasions when the man was a student at the former Roncalli High School. Mueller left Roncalli in 1971.

    It was the third lawsuit filed in Pueblo naming Mueller. On Tuesday, a lawsuit listing allegations against Mueller was announced in St. Louis. A 35-year-old man alleged Mueller sexually assaulted him at knifepoint when the man was a high school sophomore.

    The Diocese of Pueblo and the Archdiocese of St. Louis are co-defendants in the suits, but Mueller, who left the religious order in 1986, is not.

    The Marianists religious order also was listed as a defendant in the suit because Mueller was a member.

    Mueller is a 1956 Central Catholic graduate. He taught music at Pueblo's Roncalli High School from 1966 to 1971. He was at St. Louis' St. John Vianney High School from 1962 to 1966 and in 1984-85, province officials said.

    Diane Guerra, province communications director, said Mueller voluntarily left the Marianists order.


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    Friday, September 23, 2005

     

    Prison Guard Gets Probation For Helping Inmate Escape


    LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. -- A former Lebanon County prison guard has been sentenced to five years probation for helping an inmate to escape.

    Bonita Kirby helped Tina Proudfoot Myerhoffer escape last year when she was transporting her back to prison from a doctor's appointment.

    Myerhoffer said Kirby handed her the keys after she told the guard that she was worried about her health and wanted to see her husband.

    Myerhoffer was recaptured two days later.


    See our complete collection of bad behavior at the hands of prison and jail guards: Where did they learn that?

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    Woman charges rape in tangled affair with priest



    New York - A woman who said she turned to the former pastor of Our Lady of Pompei Church for spiritual guidance is claiming he met her need with what she at first believed to be “spiritual hugs” but that these embraces quickly went beyond the religious and became rape.

    Leslie Fray is charging that Father Joseph Cogo, former pastor at the Carmine Street church, raped her at least three times. The incidents happened almost 30 years ago, when Fray, then a recent Yale graduate and convert to Catholicism, came to Greenwich Village. Fray, now 51, says she was beset by delayed-onset post-traumatic stress syndrome stemming from the alleged rapes and that it wrecked her life.

    She says the recent media coverage of lawsuits against pedophile priests, her own growing awareness of what happened to her and wanting to inform others who may have had similar experiences are compelling her to tell her story now.

    In June of 2004, Fray filed a complaint with the Manhattan district attorney and the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The same week, she met with the superior of the Pious Society of the Missionaries of Saint Charles Borromeo, otherwise known as the Scalabrian order, with which Our Lady of Pompei is affiliated. The following month, Cogo was asked to step down as head pastor at the Village church. Three months later, he was transferred to Caracas, Venezuela, to head the Our Lady of Pompei Church there, also part of the Scalabrians’ order.

    Fray is seeking a financial settlement from the Scalabrian brothers. Initially, she asked for $2 million, but she has since decided she is owed more. A year later, she is getting ready to sue for monetary damages if a settlement is not reached soon.

    “I’m asking $27 million, because it was 27 years of being a vegetable,” Fray told The Villager in a recent interview. “I couldn’t practice [archaeology], no career, children. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t get close to people because of the abuse.”

    Speaking from Caracas, Cogo, 71, denied the accusations. He said Fray is disappointed with how her life turned out, and now with the Catholic church beset by lawsuits, has seen an opportunity to cash in.

    “There was no abuse,” he said. “I was imprudent — of course I was. When you deal with young people who are in need you go possibly a little bit further than you should. You hug, certainly — but nothing more than that.”

    However, Fray tells a different story. She said it’s only within the last two years in therapy that she’s come to the realization that Cogo raped her in a case of what she said her therapist describes as “classic abuse.”

    When she came to the Village, she was an earnest cum laude Ivy League grad and a recent convert from what she calls “so-called Episcopal.” She said she had been impressed by a devout Catholic philosophy professor and felt she could find strength in the church’s sacraments and confession and its greater structure.

    After having spent a year abroad in Italy, she hoped to deepen her faith and practice her Italian in the Our Lady of Pompei parish while waiting for grants she had applied for to study Doric columns in southern Italy.

    “I thought — the Village, there were Italians,” she recalled. “At this church there were Italian priests, so I thought, perfect, I can keep my Italian.” She would often speak the language with Cogo when they were talking together. In Cogo, she thought she had found “a bridge — he’s my alter Christus.” Yet, she says, her faith was abused.

    “I saw Cogo and he saw an opportunity — he pounced,” she said. “Being a Yalie, I guess, I thought I was strong. I didn’t see cause to report [it]. I was a child really. I thought Cogo was a priest — and really to trust.”

    The hugs Cogo gave her she thought were the traditional church “peace greeting.”

    “It was a hug situation, but he went beyond,” she said.

    After she told him she was new to the parish and seeking spiritual counseling, Cogo, wearing his priest’s collar, came over to her Thompson St. apartment. There was the hug and then, Fray says, Cogo had intercourse with her.

    “He said it would help, it was what I needed and it was sanctioned on high. He said, ‘This is actually O.K., in the order and by God — and this will help you.’

    “Cogo seemed very experienced — the first meeting in my apartment he had a condom,” she said.

    Birth control, of course, goes against the teachings of the church.

    “It’s not Catholic doctrine — but I’m glad,” she said. Nevertheless, she recalled walking the streets of the Village and fearing she might have been pregnant.

    The pattern replayed a few more times. Afterwards, she claims Cogo would call her from the priory and engage in “phone sex.”

    Despite the alleged rapes, Fray did not sever contact with Cogo, feeling she could “shirk his advances and just relate to him spiritually, as he was a priest.” He invited her out to dinner a few times and she went, feeling it was safe to be with him in public. On one occasion, she invited Cogo to accompany her to the Yale Club.

    “I thought Cogo was the problem — and that he was the answer,” she said. “He had kind of brainwashed me — seducing. He was this Italian. I had spent my junior year in Italy.” Cogo was helping her get a visa to do archaeology work in Italy, she added.

    According to an 11-page report she wrote on her relationship with Cogo, Fray said he tried to have sex with her several more times, without success. Once he took her to what Fray describes as “a sleazy Midtown hotel” and asked for sex, but she said no. Another time, she claims he threw her down on the floor in a rundown Midtown office, but she wrenched free and left. In the report, Fray said she was offended that Cogo didn’t want to talk, just wanted sex.

    Once after having led a morning Mass, she says, Cogo tried to have sex with her in the priory — the priests’ residence adjoining the church. She recalls walking past a long table where a priest eating breakfast did not bat an eye as they passed, then going up in a narrow, European-style elevator that opened into Cogo’s apartment. Inside, as Fray recalls it, was a “huge,” double-width bed resembling a high hospital-style bed. She also remembers that left casually on the floor in a closet was a sculpture she had made that she had given Cogo to take care of.

    “I said, ‘No. You defiled my apartment. Now you want me to defile your room,’ ” Fray recalled. “I went down in the elevator and went out.” On one occasion, Cogo did succeed in performing a sex act on Fray but she says she was “grossed out.”

    Regarding the encounters at Fray’s apartment, Cogo acknowledges there were maybe two or three “hugs.” But he denies rape.

    “That’s absolutely out of her mind,” he said. “It’s a pack of lies. She’s building up a case. You try to do your best — and look what happens. You hug a girl to help her because she’s down — that’s what you try to do. But there was no abuse — crazy. She would tell me her experience, what she was doing, that kind of stuff. A few times I went to her place too — but it was all in good terms.”

    Cogo admits he was transferred because of Fray’s accusations. He was sent south “to be out of the scene, because they knew she would start something,” he said. “They tell you, ‘Look, go someplace else.’ ”

    Fray says she also saw the priest for dinner in Italy in 1982 when she was working as an archaeology fellow near Naples and Cogo was in Italy assessing earthquake damages; afterwards, Cogo wanted sex and she again rejected him, she says. In 1983, she went to see Cogo in New York — “Somehow I thought he could help me with my present ills,” her report says. She met him at the American Committee on Italian Migration, where he was then executive national secretary. She claims he led her into a hall and fondled her breasts, and she ran out of the office.

    In the years after the alleged rapes and sexual abuse, as her health declined, Fray says she was told she might have Parkinson’s disease or be schizophrenic. She became anorexic.

    But recently she’s begun to improve, she said. She takes a small amount of psychotropic medication but is being weaned off it. She has rededicated herself to painting, which she studied in college. Her self-portraits are oddly masculine looking, but she explains this as part of the slow process of reconnecting with her femininity after her ordeal. She now works as a private nurses’ aide, feeling that as she is heeling she can help others heel.

    Growing up in an affluent family in the Pacific Northwest, she admits she was sheltered and “had a child’s notion of affection” as a young woman. Her only prior sexual experience had been in college when a boy she liked forced himself on her in what she also now realizes was a rape. Her father also sexually abused her as a child, she says. Yet, it’s Cogo she feels who affected her so profoundly.

    “I went away from my body — because I wanted what he had done to go away,” she said. “I’ve been basically numb from the breast down. I’m regaining feeling — it’s working. I lost years, but I feel that my resurrected self is better than before.”

    Cogo, for his part, downplays any relationship. Asked for example, if he and Fray ever went to the so-called “sleazy hotel,” he said, “No, no.”

    He denied he ever wanted to have sex in the priory.

    How about the time Fray says they went together to the Yale Club?

    Cogo thought for a moment: “Yale Club, she said? I don’t remember — It’s possible.”

    The Scalabrian order was established around the turn of the century to minister to Italian immigrant communities in North and South America. The Province of the Society of Saint Charles Borrromeo — whose territory includes the Eastern United States, Eastern Canada, the Caribbean, Haiti, Colombia and Venezuela — is headquartered on Carmine St. next to Our Lady of Pompei. Father Joseph Fugolo recently took over as superior of the province.

    “I know that there is that kind of accusations she is making,” Fugolo said. “We don’t believe it was rape the way she has been describing things.” He noted he was only appointed superior a few months ago and wasn’t around in 1977 when the alleged incidents occurred. But he said, “We are denying the fact that this was rape. I never met her personally. I’m not aware of any particular wrongdoing. This person, I don’t know, maybe she felt rejected. We don’t intend to give the $2 million unless she can prove she was really raped.

    “If she was really raped, then Father Cogo was wrong,” Fugolo continued. “It’s inexcusable.” However, he added, “She was not a child. You’re talking about a few years ago, so they were consenting adults. I don’t think Father Cogo — he’s not the type. He’s a very cordial person.... Father Cogo is denying completely rape or affairs.”

    Not only is rape a crime, but having sex violates the vow of chastity, which along with poverty and obedience, comprise the three vows.

    “If he did it, then he violated the vow of celibacy, for sure. If he forced her against her will, it’s rape,” said Fugolo. “To rape a person is something inconceivable,” he added. “For us it’s even worse.” Rape and pedophilia are sicknesses that have no place in the priesthood, he said.

    Is the vow of celibacy just too hard to keep?

    “Of course it’s difficult,” said Fugolo. “If you feel you can’t take it — don’t be a priest. Get married.”

    In fact, in the early 1970s, the then pastor of Our Lady of Pompei, Father James Albano, did leave the church and priesthood to marry Carol Cecchia, the Our Lady of Pompeii School secretary.

    Timothy O’Neill, an attorney representing the Scalabrians, said there’s no case because Fray hasn’t filed suit.

    “Obviously, these are serious allegations,” he said. “If it comes to litigation, we would defend this vigorously — and there are very, very good defenses here. Speaking on behalf of the Scalabrians, there is no merit to the case.”

    O’Neill noted there was an attempt to make what is known as a pastoral response to Fray, in which the church offers help or counseling.

    The Catholic Archdiocese had some influence in the decision for Cogo to be barred from leading the Greenwich Village church, but since the Scalabrians are an order within the archdiocese, the archdiocese would not be the target of a potential lawsuit.

    “When the credible allegation came in last year, we approached the superior of the Scalabrians and asked him to remove Father Cogo, at least as pastor, until the matter was resolved,” said Joe Zwilling, archdiocese spokesperson. Zwilling said the archdiocese “removed the faculties” of Cogo, meaning he could not function as a priest in the archdiocese of New York. “If he was exonerated from the allegations, then his faculties would be restored,” Zwilling noted. He added the archdiocese hasn’t made a determination as to whether the allegations are true, though they “have a plausibility that would need to be investigated. We took her complaint seriously,” he said.

    One longtime Our Lady of Pompei congregant, who requested anonymity, said the buzz around the church when Cogo was sent packing to Caracas was that there had been “a recurring affair” between him and a woman.

    “To me, it smelled like a rat,” she said. “You don’t pull a guy like that who’s 70 years old, who just had a hip replacement and send him to Venezuela.” Referring to Father Albano’s affair of the early 1970s, she said, “It was already a precedent. This is a repeat pattern.”


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