Charges of Abuse Endorsed in Court

By Greg Rickabaugh
Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)
June 18, 2002

A Charleston, S.C., judge ruled Monday that probable cause exists to charge an Aiken priest with sexually abusing a parish boy 25 years ago.

Monsignor Thomas Evatt, who is free on bond, did not appear for the preliminary court hearing, and his attorney, Andy Savage, did not ask a judge to dismiss the charge of committing a lewd act.

With no objections, Magistrate James Gosnell ordered the case bound over for trial after hearing the accusations recounted by a Charleston County sheriff's detective. The abuse charge is expected to go before a grand jury as early as next month.

During Monday's hearing, sheriff's Detective Billy Crews said the victim, who is now 34, reportedly told his father about the abuse in 1991. The victim first reported the alleged abuse to police this year.

According to a warrant, the alleged victim says the monsignor got into bed with him, undressed him and committed a lewd act during an overnight stay at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Charleston in 1977.

Before the hearing, Mr. Savage got prosecutors to agree not to bring up a police report that suggests Monsignor Evatt confessed to the crime. An incident report indicates an official with the Diocese of Charleston told police the monsignor called the 1977 incident a "singular horrible event" that "never happened again."

In a telephone interview, Mr. Savage said the monsignor, who has been suspended, denies giving a confession. "My client does not agree that he has given any statement to anybody," he said Monday.

Mr. Savage said church officials will not turn over the statements referred to in the report and are arguing attorney-client privilege.

"They won't even tell me why he's suspended," Mr. Savage said. "And I have a real problem with them going around telling everyone at the parish why he's suspended, but they won't tell me."

Monsignor Evatt, 52, resigned from St. Mary Help of Christian Church in Aiken on May 18. A police report indicates he is living in Anderson


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.