Holy Cross Priest Facing Extradition
Rev. Paul Lebrun Charged in Arizona Abuse Investigation
By Gwen O'Brien
Downloaded May 31, 2003
SOUTH BEND -- A Holy Cross priest was arrested Friday on a Phoenix felony charge of having sexual contact with a minor, according to his attorney.
The Rev. Paul LeBrun was arrested at 11 a.m. Friday at his residence in the Holy Cross Mission House, west of the University of Notre Dame campus, said Martin Kus, a LaPorte attorney representing LeBrun.
LeBrun is being held without bond in the LaPorte County Jail awaiting extradition to Arizona, according to LaPorte County Sheriff James Arnold.
The charge involves an incident that allegedly occurred on Oct. 14, 1991, between LeBrun and a minor.
Kus, who met with the former Little Flower priest Friday night, said he is uncertain about whether LeBrun will fight extradition but that the priest looks forward to his day in court.
"He is obviously disappointed and anxious with regard to this charge, which is about 12 years old," Kus said of LeBrun. "He thinks it's a witch hunt and looks forward to facing his accuser or accusers."
But Holy Cross officials were not as sure of how to proceed.
"I'm numb," the Rev. Robert Epping, the first assistant provincial of the Congregation of Holy Cross, said of the arrest. "It's just a very sad day."
Epping said he hopes to meet with LeBrun at the jail today.
"We've got to figure out what to do; we don't have a clue. This has never happened with Holy Cross before, to my knowledge. We're breaking new ground here," Epping said of LeBrun's arrest.
Epping and Holy Cross attorney Richard A. Nussbaum spent much of the afternoon and evening meeting with two detectives from Arizona, Epping said.
Epping said the warrant "has to do with a sexual abuse-related charge." It is part of Epping's job to investigate such accusations against Holy Cross priests.
LeBrun served at Little Flower Catholic Church in South Bend for several years in the 1980s and 1990s. He left South Bend in 1986 for the Phoenix Diocese, where he worked in two parishes. He returned to Little Flower in 1991.
A year ago Friday, Maricopa County (Ariz.) Attorney Rick Romley announced a criminal investigation into the way the Phoenix Diocese has handled accusations of sexual misconduct by priests.
Since then, there have been several grand juries, some of which are still seated. Epping said he did not know whether the charge or charges LeBrun faces are part of a grand jury indictment.
Earlier this month, LeBrun was named in an article in the Arizona Republic of Phoenix as one of dozens of priests who face accusations of sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred while working at parishes in the Phoenix Diocese.
According to the article, LeBrun faces allegations in both of the parishes he served, St. John Vianney in Goodyear, Ariz., and Blessed Sacrament in Tolleson, Ariz.
Epping said he has met and spoken with two men in Arizona, now in their 20s, who allege they were abused by LeBrun when he served in the Phoenix Diocese.
The Tribune published an article on Sept. 22 in which four men in their early to mid-30s accused LeBrun of sexual abuse in the 1980s, when LeBrun was working at Little Flower. They said they were interviewed as part of an Indiana State Police investigation into the priest's conduct. Even if their allegations were true, local officials said they could not have prosecuted because of Indiana's statute of limitations on sex crimes.
Although still a priest, LeBrun has not exercised any public ministry since July, Holy Cross officials said.
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