Priest Free on Bond in Sex Case
By Hugh Aynesworth
May 31, 1991
Dino Cinel, the one-time New Orleans parish priest, told a criminal court judge Wednesday he was not guilty of possessing child pornography and was released on $5,000 bond - but the saga swept forward as more information about Father Cinel's activities came to light.
The present charges of possession carry a possible two-year sentence upon conviction, but state and federal grand juries here are considering far more serious charges against the 49-year-old Italian-born Roman Catholic priest.
Father Cinel's case began in December 1988 when pornographic videotapes, movies and photographs were accidentally found in his rectory apartment while he was away lecturing in Italy.
Church officials kept the materials secret for more than three months and the district attorney, when finally told of the stash, refused to prosecute Father Cinel.
In the summer of 1990, Father Cinel sat for a lengthy deposition in a civil suit filed by one of the youths depicted in the pornographic videotapes.
In the deposition, Father Cinel admitted to scores of sexual perversions with young boys over decades, but swore the youths were all over the legal age - 17 in Louisiana. He even called the District Attorney's Office when he first came to town, he explained, to make sure he knew the law in that respect.
The gist of statements made by Father Cinel in the deposition was known throughout the news media in New Orleans for several months, but the scandal did not become public until two weeks ago when The Washington Times quoted from it and indicated the possibility of a cover-up by the church and the D.A.
Citing "new evidence," District Attorney Harry Connick has now sent the possession case directly to a grand jury, which quickly indicted Father Cinel. In actuality, The Times has learned, there was no new evidence - just the clamoring public, which openly asked why the case had been deep-sixed.
Mr. Connick did not help his case by admitting that his worry about embarrassing the church (of which he is a member) was a consideration in not prosecuting.
WDSU-TV, New Orleans' NBC affiliate, reported that Mr. Connick's own chief investigator had strongly recommended prosecution in the spring of 1989.
Father Cinel slipped out of New Orleans this week after posting $500 to a bonding company but was forced to leave his passport with his lawyer, Arthur "Buddy" Lemann III.
Before he turned himself in to Central Lockup on Wednesday, Father Cinel read a terse statement to reporters at Mr. Lemann's office.
He said he had changed his life and entered extensive professional counseling. Flanked by his wife, Linda, whom he married after the church removed him from his assignment at St. Rita's Church, he said, "I have been a hard-working, productive citizen and a faithful spouse. I will continue to do the right thing."
Calling the charges "devastating and terrifying," he asked the media to respect his privacy. In his only hint of remorse, Father Cinel said he regretted the embarrassment caused to the community.
He offered no apology to the several youths he photographed and made no reference to his earlier charges that the church reneged on its promise to block criminal investigation if he would quietly and quickly leave St. Rita's.
Two of the youths he videotaped have sued Father Cinel and the church for alleged mental damage resulting from illicit and longtime affairs.
The more serious possible charge facing Father Cinel is that of indecency with a minor. Authorities have been contacted by two boys who claim they were 13 and 14 when first seduced by the priest.
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