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  No Charges for Suspended Gibbons Principal

By Steve Harrison
Miami Herald
August 3, 2002

Suspended Cardinal Gibbons High principal the Rev. Joseph Kershner will not face criminal charges for allegedly molesting a male student in the 1970s because the statute of limitations has long since expired.

But Broward Assistant State Attorney Dennis Siegel wrote Wednesday in a closeout memo that the credibility of the charge against Kershner is supported by other allegations made by former students that came to light during his investigation.

Kershner has denied the allegation through his attorney. He remains on administrative leave from the school, pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation by the Miami Archdiocese.

According to Siegel's memo, the initial accusation came from a student who was at Cardinal Gibbons from 1972 to 1976. The student contacted the state attorney's office in March and said it was "well-known" that Kershner would "slide his hands down the back of the pants of male students."

The former student said Kershner did this to him several times and that he avoided future encounters with the principal.

The student also said Kershner acquired a sexually derogatory nickname among male students, according to the memo.

The statute of limitations on the alleged crime -- which occurred in either 1974 or 1975 -- was three years.

While investigating the complaint, Siegel wrote that he heard from other students who made other allegations of "sexually inappropriate conduct" against Kershner, who is now 74.

"The information contained allegations of ogling male students in the locker room during or immediately after showers, as well as touching or fondling the buttocks and genitals of students, by Rev. Kershner," wrote Siegel, who is in charge of the sex-crimes and child-abuse unit.

One of the students who contacted Siegel's office is Gene Mitchell, who attended Cardinal Gibbons from 1966 to 1970. Mitchell, now an anesthesiologist in Michigan, said Kershner would watch students in the shower. Mitchell also said that Kershner sometimes would rub his groin against Mitchell's hand if it was hanging off the edge of his desk.

"It was pretty well-known throughout the school that this happened," Mitchell said.

Siegel declined to comment further on Friday.

Kershner has been suspended by the Miami Archdiocese since June, two months after the allegation surfaced.

An archdiocese response team including a lay doctor, psychiatrist, attorney, canon lawyer and priest is investigating the allegations, said Mary Ross Agosta, the archdiocese's spokeswoman.

She didn't know when their investigation would be finished.

"The response team has its own timetable," she said.

Kershner is represented by attorney David Bogenschutz. In early July, he said the priest had been ensnared in "hysteria" of other priests nationwide being removed for molesting children.

He described the former student's allegation as "benign, almost locker-room stuff."

He said the complaint was that Kershner touched him on the buttocks but was not sexual.

 
 

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