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  Abuse Allegations Deemed Too Old To File Charges
1 Alleged Incident Dates Back to 1970s

By Stephen Thompson and Stephen Thompson
Tampa Tribune [Florida]
May 24, 2002

Largo - Two Pinellas police agencies have decided not to file criminal charges against priests alleged to have molested boys in their jurisdictions decades ago.

The alleged incidents occurred so far in the past that prosecutors cannot pursue them, according to reports released Thursday by the Clearwater and Largo police departments.

One of the allegations centered on Richard Allen, pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Church in Largo, who abruptly resigned April 26 - and later asked forgiveness from his parish in a letter - after Bishop Robert Lynch confronted him with an allegation from the 1970s.

St. Petersburg police looked into the same allegation, then passed their report to Clearwater after discovering that some of the alleged incidents were said to have occurred in a Clearwater home owned by Allen's mother, a police report says.

The victim, now 41, describes himself as mentally disabled. He says he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, has attempted suicide twice, and has been temporarily committed involuntarily for psychiatric evaluation six to eight times in the past few years.

"He claims this has all stemmed from the abuse he encountered during his teenage years," the St. Petersburg police report states. "He advised that through Social Security, they have on record that he was claiming sexual abuse by a priest when he applied for disability."

The man said Allen, then-pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in St. Petersburg, molested him and other boys at Allen's mother's house, the report states. The victim accused a church musician of molesting him as well.

He was 12 to 14 at the time, the report says.

The other case centered on James E. Russo, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Largo. Russo resigned as a priest in 1997 after having "an episode of misconduct" with a minor, according to a brief statement released at the time by Lynch.

Other victims came forward later, the police report states.

In the more recent allegation, a man who was then a student at St. Patrick's School in Largo and an altar boy said Russo molested him. He told no one, not even his wife, until recent publicity surrounding priests molesting young people surfaced.

"Father Russo was a very well-respected clergyman, highly thought of in the diocese at that time," the victim wrote to St. Petersburg Detective Peter Venero, who handled the original complaint. "Who would people believe, him or a 12- or 13-year-old boy?"

 
 

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