Woman Says She Was Sexually Assaulted by Priest

By Rick Stillion
Daily Jeffersonian
December 31, 2008

A Cambridge woman is reportedly alleging she was sexually assaulted by a Catholic priest in the 1980s while she was a 15-year-old high school student.

According to a press release issued by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Lori Mercer recently came forward saying she was sexually assaulted by a priest who has since been suspended.

The announcement by SNAP was made at a press conference held outside the Steubenville diocese headquarters.

No charges have been filed against the priest.

SNAP organizers are also reporting that the priest's attorney threatened to file a lawsuit against Mercer if she spoke publicly for the first time about the alleged crimes.

Mercer was reportedly scheduled to appear on a radio talk show in December when the threat was allegedly made by the attorney. SNAP officials said she canceled the appearance on the show.

The press release stated Mercer reported the priest's alleged crimes years ago to church officials in Steubenville, but was treated harshly.

She also reported the crimes to the Guernsey County Sheriff's Office in 1991, according to SNAP officials.

Sheriff Mike McCauley advised his office has no investigations active regarding the alleged sexual assaults involving Mercer. She reportedly spoke to investigators twice previously regarding the allegations.

SNAP officials are asking the Steubenville Catholic Diocese bishop to respond to the allegations.

"If the bishop believes (the priest) is innocent, he should say so," said Judy Jones, SNAP's director for southeastern Ohio. "And if he believes (he) is guilty, he should absolutely say so, so more parents will keep their kids away from him."

The priest was suspended from active ministry in November 2007.

In October 2008, the grand jury of the Guernsey County Common Pleas Court failed to return an indictment against the priest after a woman alleged he sexually assaulted her while she was a parishioner at a Lore City church.

The alleged victim, Beth Rocker, testified before the grand jury regarding the allegations she was sexually assaulted in the early 1990s.

Rocker is currently living in Israel.

"Following presentation of testimony to the grand jury, no indictment was returned for sexual misconduct," said Guernsey County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel G. Padden after the grand jury convened.

"The grand jury considered all of the evidence and did not find probable cause to return an indictment."



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