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  NW Priest Accused of Sexually Abusing Youth
Archdiocese Denies Charges, Sends Suspect Away for Counseling

By Stephanie Griffith
Washington Post
January 24, 1991

An Arlington grand jury has indicted a Washington priest on charges that he had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old Arlington youth.

Thomas Chleboski, 31, a priest at Our Lady of Victory Church in Northwest Washington, was charged Tuesday with six counts of sexual misconduct, including fondling, sodomy and aggravated sexual battery of the youth, who was a student at a parochial school affiliated with the church.

Paul F. Interdonato, an attorney for the Washington Archdiocese, said Chleboski has been a priest in the parish about a year, and occasionally taught Catholic doctrine at three schools in the Washington area: St. Martin's and St. Jude's in Maryland and Our Lady of Victory.

Officials from each of those schools declined to comment yesterday.

The archdiocese establishes policy for Catholic churches in Washington, Prince George's, Montgomery and Charles counties.

"I've made arrangements with Arlington police to come in and answer all the charges," said Timothy Battle, an attorney for Chleboski. "We deny all the charges," he said, adding that he would have no further comment.

In a prepared statement, Interdonato said that after hearing of the allegations of sexual abuse from the youth's mother, church officials placed Chleboski "on administrative leave immediately and sent [him] for psychological counseling and any necessary treatment" at Servants of the Paraclete hospital in New Mexico.

Arlington police said they consider Chleboski to be a fugitive.

Interdonato disputed that notion. "When we sent him away there were no judicial procedures pending of any kind," he said.

The indictments handed up Tuesday involve six encounters between the youth and Chleboski at the child's Arlington home, from September to December of last year.

Police said the priest became familiar with the family, often stopping by the family home, bringing gifts for the youth and taking him on outings. "The priest and the boy had an ongoing relationship," said police spokesman Tom Bell.

Eventually, Bell said, "the mother became suspicious," and "convinced her son to open up to her. He felt he was doing something wrong but he didn't know how to stop it."

If Chleboski is convicted of all the charges, he would face imprisonment for a maximum of 45 years.

Police said they also are investigating whether federal statutes [the Mann Act], making it a felony to transport an individual across state lines, had also been violated in the case.

Interdonato said that the case is under investigation by the archdiocese, and a decision about Chleboski's future with the church will be made by Cardinal James A. Hickey. In a similar case in 1984, another priest, Peter McKutcheon, "was suspended from religious life," Interdonato said.

According to police, the youth is no longer at Our Lady of Victory School.

Interdonato said that counseling has been offered to the youth and his family.

"We're caught between the priest and the alleged victim," said Interdonato, speaking for the archdiocese.

"We have to keep a spiritual and professional attitude with regard to both of them," he said.

 
 

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