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  Librarian, 52, Avoids Sex Trial by Resigning

By Kevin Harter
Plain Dealer [Cleveland, Ohio]
February 11, 1994

In exchange for Jerry Bals' teaching credentials and a promise that he would never work with minors, criminal sex charges were dropped yesterday against the high school librarian and church deacon.

Dismissal of the gross sexual imposition and felonious assault charges in Lake County Common Pleas Court will not directly affect two civil cases against Bals, 52, of Eastlake. Bals has been sued by two women for allegedly sexually abusing them about 20 years ago. Bals was a counselor and librarian at Lake Catholic High School and a deacon in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese at the time.

The criminal and civil cases pertained to the same incidents.

"It doesn't feel like justice," said Mary Hammond, 37, of Eastlake, the first woman to accuse Bals of sexual abuse. "He made a deal, which is an admission of guilt."

In exchange for having charges against him dropped, Bals agreed to: Voluntarily surrender all teaching certificates he currently holds by June 10.

Never seek reinstatement of his teaching certificates in Ohio or any other state.

Resign from the Willoughby-Eastlake school district, where he is a librarian, by June 10.

Pay counseling and other related expenses for a second woman who accused him of sexual abuse.

Never seek employment or work in any way with anyone under the age of 18.

Failure to comply with any of the specifications will result in refiling of charges against Bals, according to an agreement approved by Lake County Common Pleas Judge Paul H. Mitrovich.

Assistant Lake County Prosecutor Ariana E. Tarighati said she was pleased with the agreement.

For a number of reasons, including the amount of time that passed between the alleged abuse and the charges, the case might have been difficult to prosecute, she said.

Tarighati said the two women's main concern was to keep Bals away from minors and out of schools.

"They wanted the fox out of the hen house. That was their primary objective, and I think we accomplished that," she said.

Bals, who left Lake Catholic in 1985 to work at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, began working as a librarian at Eastlake's North High School in 1988. He has remained on a paid leave of absence since being indicted last October.

Willoughby-Eastlake Superintendent Roger Lulow could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Bals still faces civil charges filed against him in Lake County by a Chardon woman and in Cuyahoga County by Hammond.

Hammond, 37, who is now a rape crisis counselor in Cleveland, said she was sexually abused by Bals in 1973 but did not gather the courage to go to police until 1984.

Police said there was insufficient evidence to proceed then, but Bals was indicted last year after the Chardon woman came forward.

"I still have a civil case and I think more women will come forward," Hammond said. "Basically, I'm pretty disgusted that charges were dropped. ... because now he has no (criminal) record."

 
 

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