Prosecutor Now Wants Sex-Abuse Files Sealed
By James F. McCarty firstname.lastname@example.org
The Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH]
July 17, 2003
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, who had advocated the public release of documents compiled on child sex abuse in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, has done an about-face.
In a recent court filing, Mason asked Common Pleas Judge Brian Corrigan to preserve a veil of secrecy over 50,000 investigative documents, with the exception of limited releases to the diocese and appropriate public service agencies.
A decision from Corrigan isn't expected for several months.
Assistant County Prosecutors Robert Coury and Timothy Miller said the prosecutor's office reversed its position after reassessing Ohio's "shield law" barring public disclosure of grand jury investigative materials.
"As we got further into our investigation, it became pretty clear to us that the law provides a total ban on our ability to release these records," Coury said yesterday. "We made a strategic decision to at least get something. . . . If we don't give the judge the opportunity for limited disclosure, he may not have the opportunity for any disclosure."
Mason's seven-month investigation into the diocese ended in December, and resulted in indictments against one priest and six diocesan employees. It also produced evidence that more than 1,000 people were victims of sexual abuse, with accusations against 496 possible sexual offenders, of whom 145 were priests. Many of those priests avoided indictments only because the time for charging them had expired.
The Plain Dealer and other media filed requests to examine the files. Mason initially said he thought the public had a right to know whether priests or lay people accused of sexual abuse continued to have access to children, and he expressed an inclination to comply with the media requests.
Miller said Mason's primary concern remains the protection of children. He said the latest court filing would meet that goal by providing the names of accused offenders to agencies such as the Department of Children and Family Services, police departments and community block-watch groups.
"Our interest is in getting this information out to as many agencies as possible for the sake of protecting children," Miller said.
Lawyers for the diocese, meanwhile, have argued in court documents that all of Mason's investigative files should remain forever sealed. They have made no requests for the files to be turned over to the diocese.
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