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Priest Not Guilty; Judge Criticizes Accuser

By Dan Horn
Cincinnati Enquirer [Cincinnati OH]
November 1, 2005

A judge threw out sexual abuse charges against a Cincinnati priest Monday after declaring that neither the accuser nor his story was believable.

A relieved Rev. Raymond Larger hugged family and friends, including several priests, as he left the courtroom. Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman found him not guilty of rape, sexual battery and gross sexual imposition.

The Rev. Raymond Larger in court Monday. The judge found that his accuser was not credible. The Enquirer / Michael E. Keating.

The ruling ended the only trial of a Greater Cincinnati priest on abuse charges since the clergy abuse scandal erupted more than three years ago.

"I feel great," Larger said. "There is no truth whatsoever to the allegation."

Ruehlman reached the same conclusion after hearing about two hours of testimony from the accuser, who had claimed Larger abused him repeatedly from 1995 to 1997 while he was a student at St. James School in White Oak.

When prosecutors rested their case, the judge threw up his hands and shook his head.

"It's silly to go any further with this case. The testimony I heard just isn't credible," Ruehlman said. "In good conscience, I can't allow this to go any further."

Larger, who was suspended when he was charged, said he hoped to resume working as a priest soon.

Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk issued a statement saying Larger's status would be addressed when his accuser's pending civil lawsuit is resolved.

The archdiocese recently reinstated two other priests who had been suspended after concluding the claims against those priests were not credible.

Although 15 priests in the archdiocese have been disciplined for misconduct since 2001, Larger is the only one to go to trial. The accusations against the others occurred so long ago that prosecution was barred by the statute of limitations.

The accusations against Larger arose when Dale Ramminger, 21, filed a claim with the archdiocese's $3 million victim compensation fund. Church officials then referred the case to Hamilton County prosecutors, who presented it to a grand jury.

Larger's lawyer, Hal Arenstein, said Ramminger accused Larger in hopes of getting money from the church.

"This is nothing more than a mere fantasy," Arenstein said. "This is not a person who can be believed. He's all about the money."

Ramminger, who claimed he was 11 when the abuse began, denied any interest in money and said he came forward in hopes of preventing the abuse of other children.

He said Larger took an interest in him because of family problems, including an abusive father and a mother dying of cancer. He said Larger told him sex would bring him "closer to heaven."

But Arenstein cited several discrepancies in testimony Ramminger gave to the grand jury and in court Monday, including the times he claims the encounters with Larger took place.

Arenstein said Ramminger never mentioned the alleged abuse to anyone, including counselors who treated him because of his family problems, and did not come forward until he filed a claim for compensation. That claim was denied.

He also suggested the accuser, who came to court in handcuffs, was not trustworthy because of previous troubles with the law. Ramminger currently is serving time for attempted breaking and entering.

Larger, 54, has a previous conviction on sex-related charges, but that charge did not involve a minor. He was sentenced to a year of probation in 2003 after a conviction for soliciting sex from a male police officer in Dayton.

Larger said he did not remember ever meeting Ramminger, who was among many altar boys he worked with over the years.

"I absolutely forgive him," said Larger. "I only wish the best for him."

 
 

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