Police: Hume Credibility under Inquiry
By Mike Geniella and Bob Klose
November 1, 1999
A flurry of last-minute revelations challenging the credibility of a former Ukiah priest who has accused Bishop G. Patrick Ziemann of sexual coercion is preventing Santa Rosa police from wrapping up a five-month criminal investigation.
"We've become mired down in the details," said Sgt. Brian Davis.
Ziemann's attorneys say the information that police are verifying, including documents showing the Rev. Jorge Hume Salas hired a private attorney 15 months before ending a disputed sexual relationship that the bishop says was consensual, undermines the priest's credibility and makes it impossible for authorities to prosecute.
Irma Cordova, Hume's Santa Rosa lawyer, has angrily denounced Ziemann's lawyers for "smearing" her client and said documents they have turned over to police are "totally irrelevant" and amount to "crumbs" in attempts to undermine the credibility of her client.
Cordova insists the bishop's own admissions of sexual misconduct in a secretly recorded conversation that Hume made a year after he retained her as his lawyer is evidence enough for authorities to move ahead with prosecution of sexual coercion charges.
"Anything that is needed for prosecution is on that tape," Cordova said. She maintains that transcripts of the tape show Ziemann acknowledging he demanded sex from Hume and also apologizing to him.
Ziemann's attorneys, for their part, are attacking not only Hume's credibility, but Cordova's role, pointing to the document that shows Hume hired Cordova 15 months before his sexual relationship with Ziemann ended.
"We gave police that document," said defense lawyer Chris Andrian. "What it establishes is that they had an attorney-client relationship making claims against Bishop Ziemann for 15 months before she had Hume surreptitiously tape record Ziemann."
"How can this lawyer allow this guy to have sex with a guy for 15 months and then say he was forced to have sex against his will? It's reprehensible," Andrian said.
Cordova refused to discuss circumstances surrounding how the tape was made, saying Ziemann's taped admissions of a sexual relationship and his apologies to Hume are the issue. To Cordova, Hume is a victim, a Costa Rican native coerced by a bishop who held authority over virtually every aspect of his life, from parish assignments to surviving financially in his adopted country.
Santa Rosa attorney Joe Piasta, who represents Ziemann in Hume's civil lawsuit, contends the documents show a "set up."
"Why did he and his lawyer wait nearly two years before going to police with their criminal complaint?" asked Piasta. "I'll tell you why. Everything about this case smells of a lot of money that Mr. Hume and his lawyer thought might be theirs."
The civil case is essentially on hold while police investigate whether they have enough evidence to ask the district attorney to bring criminal charges of sexual coercion.
Sgt. Davis, who has headed a special five-member team, including police and district attorney investigators that began looking into the Ziemann-Hume affair in June, said there's no doubt Hume's credibility has become a major issue.
"Sometimes questions about an individual's credibility can be overcome. But in this case, we still have more questions than answers. The new information means we have more work to do," he said.
As a result, Davis said, he's unsure when results of the lengthy police investigation will be turned over to Sonoma County District Attorney Michael Mullins for a formal review.
Much of the information police are reviewing has been uncovered by Ziemann's attorneys, who argue it is so damaging to Hume's credibility that authorities will be unable to proceed with any criminal prosecution.
Private investigator Chris Reynolds, who works with Ziemann's attorneys, said Friday he provided information to police at the request of prosecutors.
"We were requested by the district attorney to direct any relevant information that might impact the credibility of Father Hume," he said. "The information included a letter I received from Bolivia that mentioned that Father Hume had been in possession of pornography and condoms."
"We also sent police information from Bolivia that said Father Hume in 1992 was in the possession of three passports, one of which said he was a priest. The significance of that is that he was not ordained until 1993, and none of that information regarding Bolivia was disclosed at the time he presented himself to the diocese," Reynolds said.
Other information police say they are investigating includes:
A June 18, 1997, document signed by Hume that designates Cordova's law firm of Perlman, Cordova & Flynn as his attorneys to pursue a planned claim against Ziemann, 15 months before Hume says his sexual affair ended with the bishop. The document says the "acts against me and my person" began on or about April 1996. But in his civil lawsuit filed nearly three years later, Hume claims the sexual coercion began in August, 1996. Cordova refused to offer any explanation for the discrepancy.
An August letter from Honduras Bishop Geraldo Scarpone declaring he was not the author of a June 10, 1984, letter that Hume used in winning Ziemann's approval for his ordination in the Diocese of Santa Rosa. The 1984 letter provided by Hume in 1993 absolved him of misconduct allegations, including impersonating a priest, while he lived in his native Costa Rica. But Scarpone said he didn't write that letter.
Documents detailing that in 1994-96, when Hume served as a priest at St. Mary of the Angels Church in Ukiah until he was removed after admitting stealing at least $1,200 from church collections, his credit card charges totaled as much as his $18,000-ayear salary.
Statements from Napa priests that Hume violated Ziemann's edict that he not bring young men into his private quarters at the church rectory, a situation similar to what occurred earlier at the Ukiah church.
Cordova said those and other details about Hume do not change "the fact that my client was a victim of sexual coercion."
"You have to understand what happens in the mind of someone who is under terrible emotional stress. Father Jorge had nowhere to go. He was subject to the authority of the bishop," Cordova said.
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