Ex-Savannah Catholic priest indicted for sexual battery on minors
By Jan Skutch And Deann Komanecky
Savannah Morning News
August 28, 2017
Former Savannah Roman Catholic priest – and convicted child sex offender — Wayland Yoder Brown has been indicted in Jasper County, S.C., on nine counts of criminal misconduct with a minor – sexual battery — involving two male victims, South Carolina Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone III announced Monday.Brown, 74, is in custody in Maryland, Stone said. He will be extradited to South Carolina. It’s not known how long that process will take.
The felony indictments, returned Thursday in the Court of General Sessions, charge Brown with sexual battery in several locations, including St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Hardeeville, S.C., the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and the intersection of Stiney and Morgan roads in Hardeeville in the area surrounded by railroad tracks and depot area.
Victims in the cases ranged in age of under 11 to under 14. One victim was in the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades at the time of the alleged abuses. The other victim was in the seventh grade at the time. The crimes alleged in the indictments occurred in Jasper County between 1978 and 1988.
The indictment follows a 14-month-long investigation, Stone and Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap said during a news conference in Bluffton.
Heap explained that despite allegations against Brown in Chatham County, he could not be indicted there because of Georgia’s statute of limitations. South Carolina does not have a statute of limitations.
Stone said the charges carry a sentence of 25 years to life for criminal sexual conduct in the first degree and 20 years each for the second-degree charges.
Both Heap and Stone encouraged anyone in the public with information about Brown to contact Heap’s investigators at 912-652-8080.
Also Monday, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests issued a statement applauding the victims in Brown’s latest charges.
“We are so grateful for the two brave survivors who worked with prosecutors to make this happen,” Barbara Dorros said. “Now more than ever it is imperative that survivors, witnesses and whistleblowers to come forward. Charges are not a conviction, so we beg anyone with information to come forward and work with law enforcement.”
Brown was ordained in the Diocese of Savannah in July 1977 and served as associate pastor at St. James Catholic Church and school in the mid-1970s. The Vatican dismissed Brown from the priesthood in December 2004.
He is a convicted sex offender and is registered in Maryland as a sex offender.
A native of Rome, Ga., Brown was ordained in the Savannah diocese in July 1977. He ministered in several parishes in Georgia and Maryland. In 1987-88, he served as associate pastor at St. James Parish in Savannah.
He was removed from the active ministry in July 1988. An “inactive priest” loses the title of “Father” and cannot wear priestly garb or present themselves publicly as a priest, according to Catholic doctrine.
In 2004, a Vatican decree removed him from the priesthood.
In June 2002 he was arrested in Savannah on charges of child abuse and perverted practice from Maryland stemming from misconduct in the 1970s when Brown was a seminarian in Washington, D.C.
Brown pleaded guilty in November 1977 to charges of child abuse and battery for performing sexual acts on a teenage boy and his younger brother, ages 13 and 12, between 1974-1977 in Gaithersburg, Md.
He was sentenced to 10 years in a Maryland prison in November 2002, but was released after serving five years because of credits he earned for good behavior. He was required to register as a sex offender in Maryland.
In 2016, the Savannah diocese reached a $4.5 million settlement through mediation of a lawsuit against Brown and two bishops stemming from sexual abuse of a minor – more than 30 years ago.
That suit, filed by Savannah attorney Mark Tate in the Court of Common Pleas in Jasper County, S.C., alleged that Brown took the plaintiff to Jasper County and had “multiple sexual encounters” with him between August 1987 and May 1988.
The plaintiff, Christopher Templeton of Savannah, was a 13-year-old student at St. James Catholic School in Savannah at the time.
That settlement resolves claims against former Bishop Raymond Lessard and current Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, but not as to Brown.
In October 2009, the Savannah diocese agreed to pay $4.24 million to another victim – former parishioner Alan Ranta Jr., who at the time of the acts was a St. James Catholic School student. He alleged Brown molested him between 1978 and 1983, starting when he was 10 years old.
That case also was filed in Jasper County.