City Prosecutor Wants to Charge As Many As 10 Priests in Sex Cases

By Tim Bryant
Post-Dispatch [St. Louis MO]
April 12, 2003

Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce says all the complaints against 61 priests that were reviewed by her office seem credible.

St. Louis prosecutors are preparing to seek charges against up to 10 Roman Catholic priests accused of sex abuse, Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said Friday.

Her staff would put even more of the complaints before a grand jury if the claims weren't so old and if some of them were supported by more evidence, Joyce said in a meeting with Post-Dispatch writers.

She said her office had received more than 100 complaints against 61 priests since the national sex abuse scandal began and that all seemed credible.

One priest and one former priest already have been charged. Some cases had no St. Louis jurisdiction and were referred to authorities elsewhere.

She said the success of the prosecutions may depend upon the court's interpretation of the statute of limitations in the case of the Rev. Thomas Graham, who is accused of sodomizing a boy about 1974.

The law blocks prosecutions for most sexual assaults occurring before Aug. 28, 1987. But Graham was charged under an old law, since rescinded, with no deadline for "abominable and detestable crimes against nature." Since it was on the books at the time, it applies, said Joyce.

Graham's lawyer, Chris Goeke, said Friday, "I think everybody is waiting to see what happens on the statute of limitations. It's not clear cut."

Goeke said Graham "adamantly maintains" his innocence.

Joyce said she experienced a "pivotal moment" on March 19 last year, when Archbishop Justin Rigali told her that allegations that the archdiocese had received against priests were never forwarded to police.

While legal, she said, that was "morally" and "ethically" wrong. She suggested that earlier prosecution might have spared some victims from sex abuse.

Archdiocesan spokesman Jim Orso said it has turned over all records sought by Joyce. For more than a year, cooperation with authorities "has been quite good," he said.

Besides Graham, St. Louis prosecutors charged former priest James A. Beine, also known as Mar James, who is accused of exposing himself to three boys in the restroom of a city school where he worked as a counselor. He had been dismissed from the priesthood in 1977 over allegations of sexual abuse, and awaits sentencing on an unrelated federal conviction for possessing child pornography.

St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Jack Banas said Friday that his office has received two complaints of abuse by priests that he believes are credible. But he said the statute of limitations may prevent charges.

There were 12 complaints in St. Louis County, and six were referred to police for review, said Don Schneider, spokesman for Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch.

Since then, the Rev. Gary P. Wolken has pleaded guilty to charges of statutory sodomy and child molestation and is serving a 15-year prison sentence. The Rev. Bryan Kuchar is awaiting trial on allegations he abused a boy. And a request for charges against a retired priest is being considered.

A spokeswoman for Madison County State's Attorney William Mudge said there were no priest cases prosecuted or under investigation there. St. Clair County State's Attorney Robert B. Haida was unavailable Friday but previously said he got a few complaints, all too old to pursue.

William C. Lhotka, Robert Goodrich and Valerie Schremp of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

Reporter Tim Bryant:


Phone: 314-621-5154


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