Jury Declares Priest Guilty of Molesting Boy on Outing
By Jan Ackerman
April 25, 1995
A Roman Catholic priest was convicted of indecent assault on a 13-year-old boy who said the priest kissed his neck and fondled him during an excursion to North Park last summer.
The Rev. Richard Dorsch, 50, did not take the witness stand during his brief trial, which began yesterday morning and ended with a jury verdict shortly before 4 p.m.
His attorney, Patrick J. Thomassey, argued to the jury that the allegations by the 13-year-old did not rise to the level of criminality required for a conviction of indecent assault.
"They (police) take some affection and some touching and turn it into child molestation ... and pedophilia," said Thomassey, who urged the jury to view Dorsch's actions as "general human affection."
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Connors urged the jury to reject that argument.
"You are not here to judge this person as a priest. You are here to judge him as a 49-year-old man," he said. Dorsch was 49 when the incident occurred.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated about an hour and 20 minutes before convicting Dorsch of two counts of indecent assault and one count of corruption of minors. He was acquitted of a third count of indecent assault.
Common Pleas Judge Lawrence J. O'Toole allowed Dorsch to remain free on his own recognizance and set sentencing for June 22.
Dorsch was co-pastor of Risen Lord parish on California Avenue in Brighton Heights when the incident occurred July 26. He has been on administrative leave since his arrest.
After Dorsch was arrested, the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, said Dorsch would not be allowed to wear clerical dress, celebrate Mass publicly or function in any way as a priest until the matter was resolved.
After the verdict yesterday, Lengwin said: "This situation is very painful for the church. Our concern is not only for justice but also, and most importantly, to bring healing to everyone involved, especially individuals and families who have been hurt. ...
"We need to do all in our power to reinforce the sacred bond of trust which exists between all of our priests and the people they so faithfully serve."
The victim said Dorsch was a friend of his parents and used to come to his house to watch basketball on television with his father. The boy said Dorsch invited him to the park to play basketball, swim and golf.
The boy initially told his father and later his pediatrician, Dr. Michael Daly, who, as required by law, reported the allegations to Allegheny County Children and Youth Services Aug. 23.
Before testimony began, Connors tried to persuade O'Toole to allow him to present evidence related to a second victim, who claims Dorsch engaged in the same type of conduct with him during a three-year period about 12 years ago. The second victim reported the assaults to police after reading about Dorsch's arrest in the newspapers.
O'Toole said Connors could use the information about the second victim only if Dorsch took the stand and asserted that the allegations were part of an isolated incident.
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