Beth Rocker Denied Priest's Records

By Rick Stillion
Daily Jeffersonian
December 4, 2009

OHIO -- A public records release request by a woman who claims to have been molested by a former area priest has been denied by the state's Fifth District Appellate Court.

The court denied a writ of mandamus filed by Beth Rocker seeking to have the "entire contents of the investigative file and any documents reviewed during or related to the investigation" released to her.

A grand jury of the Guernsey County Common Pleas Court returned a no bill (no indictment) against the priest, whose identity has not been released as no charges have been filed.

In rendering its decision, the court stated the records requested in the writ "create a high probability of disclosure of the uncharged suspect's identity."

The writ was filed after Sheriff Mike McCauley and Prosecuting Attorney Daniel Padden denied a request for the file based on the determination that the records were exempt from public records disclosure.

"We felt it was inappropriate to release the entire file," said Padden. "We followed the law, I'm not sure what else we could have done."

The records sought through the writ included the sheriff's call record; investigator notes; witness statements; statement from uncharged suspect's employer; complainant's statement; complainant's affidavit; correspondence between the sheriff and prosecutor, prosecutor and attorney for the uncharged suspect's employer, and the sheriff and an advocacy group; and psychological reports for the uncharged suspect.

In their decision, justices said " ... we find all of the records to be exempt" based on a two-part test established by the United States Supreme Court.

In October 2008, a grand jury failed to return an indictment against the priest after Rocker filed a criminal complaint alleging she was sexually assaulted her while a parishioner at a Lore City church.

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

Rocker also reportedly filed a similar complaint with the sheriff's office in 1991.

In December 2008, another woman alleged she was sexually assaulted by the priest in the 1980s while she was a 15-year-old high school student.

No charges were filed as a result of that allegation.

The next step for Rocker and her legal counsel, attorney Konrad Kircher of Cincinnati, would be to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.


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