Cleveland Diocese Wins Fight to Keep Abuse Files Secret

By James F. McCarty
Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH]
February 28, 2004

Voluminous investigative files documenting half a century of child sex abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland should not be released to the public, a judge ruled Friday.

The media had asked Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason to release the roomful [mbo: cq: ]-NT%>of documents at the end of his seven-month investigation in December 2002. Mason had sought a legal ruling on the media's requests.

Common Pleas Judge Brian Corrigan, in a 16-page opinion, said the files must remain secret.

"It is necessary that the [media] cite a particularized need for the information," Corrigan wrote. The media could not make a case strong enough to reach that standard, he ruled.

Mason also had asked for permission to release the 50,000 documents to "appropriate public-service agencies" such as the Department of Children and Family Services. The judge denied that request, also.

Diocesan lawyers strongly opposed the release of the records, citing state laws against the disclosure of grand-jury evidence.

"The release would serve no purpose other than to harm and embarrass victims, witnesses, and those persons accused, but not charged, with wrongdoing," attorney Steve Sozio wrote in a letter to Mason.

The prosecutor's investiga tion resulted in indictments of one priest and six diocesan employees. It also found more than 1,000 people were victims of sexual abuse at the hands of 496 sexual offenders of whom 145 were priests. But most of those cases were too old to prosecute, Mason said.

Bishop Anthony Pilla on Friday addressed the discrepancy between Mason's statistics and his own, which include findings that 285 people made sex-abuse claims against 118 clergymen in the diocese since 1950.

"We don't know the criteria that the grand jury used," Pilla said. "The numbers of the grand jury included . . . not only priests in Cleveland, but anyone who abused children."

Pilla said he would like to learn the names of accused priests obtained by Mason, but he defended the diocese's campaign to keep the files secret.

"What we opposed was to disseminate publicly raw and unsubstantiated material," Pilla said. "If that information is presented to us we will put in place the procedures to modify our policy, I can assure you."

The diocese's former lead attorney, Santiago Feliciano, sympathized with victims demanding that Pilla publicly identify all the abusers.

"Why does the bishop insist on not releasing their names? What do the abusers get, free felonies?"

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:, 216-999-4153


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