Deceased Warren Jfk Coach Named in Priest Abuse Investigation
By Mike Gauntner
March 2, 2016
A hidden file on a former friar and coach who was accused of sexually abusing 11 students at Warren John F. Kennedy School was one of the first clues that led investigators to evidence that hundreds of children were sexually abused over a period of at least 40 years by priests or religious leaders assigned to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane released a 147-page report on Tuesday outlining the results of a statewide grand jury investigation into alleged widespread abuse involving at least 50 priests or religious leaders.
Evidence and testimony reviewed by the grand jury also revealed a history of superiors within the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese taking action to conceal the child abuse as part of an effort to protect the institution's image.
The report says that during the two-year investigation, Special Agents from the Office of the Attorney General found a “Secret Archive” in a safe contained in a cabinet in the Altoona-Johnstown Bishop’s office. The safe was under lock in which only the Bishop had the key. The safe contained only one file pertaining to a Franciscan Friar, Brother Stephen Baker.
In 2013, an attorney said that while Baker was working as an athletic trainer at Bishop McCourt High School in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, he sexually abused several female athletes and cheerleaders at the school.
That same year, it was revealed that 11 students who attended JFK High School between 1986 and 1990, had received the financial settlements for crimes committed against them as children, allegedly by Brother Baker.
Brother Baker was not only the athletic trainer, but the head baseball coach, and a religious teacher at JFK from 1986 until 1991.
Some of the settlement money came from the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, which said that Brother Baker was never a member of its clergy, but confirmed that he did teach at one of the schools.
The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown also says that Brother Baker never admitted to the allegations.
Using a knife, Brother Baker took his own life at a Pennsylvania monastery in 2013.
In addition to the “Secret Archive”, Special Agents also searched the administrative office of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, where they found an unmarked door.
Behind the door were filing cabinets marked "Confidential Litigation Files", containing files for Priests who were accused of sexual misconduct.
According to the Attorney General's report, agents found boxes and filing cabinets filled with details of children being sexually violated by the institution's own members. Agents say they were surrounded by evidence of an institutional crisis of sexual abuse.
The grand jury's findings in Pennsylvania followed two years of investigation by the Office of Attorney General, which brought this matter to the grand jury in April 2014.
While Attorney General Kane stressed the investigation is ongoing, none of the criminal acts detailed in the grand jury report can be prosecuted due to the deaths of alleged abusers, traumatized victims being unable to testify in a court of law and the statute of limitations for the crimes being exhausted.
As a result, the grand jury in its report made a series of recommendations, such as abolishing the statute of limitations for sexual offenses against minors and urging the state General Assembly to suspend the civil statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims.
The grand jurors also urged victims of crimes, such as child abuse, to report criminal activity to law enforcement.