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  Accusations against Priest May Yield No Charges
St. Bernard Detectives Say It May Be Too Late

By Steve Cannizaro
The Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA]
April 15, 2004

After interviewing a man who said he was sexually abused by a priest 30 years ago in St. Bernard and St. Tammany parishes, St. Bernard authorities said Wednesday they believe it is too late to prosecute possible charges.

The Archdiocese of New Orleans said in late March that the Rev. Gerard P. Kinane, 58, who worked at churches in Chalmette, Slidell and Houma, had been placed on administrative leave and relieved of duties as a priest after being accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy in 1973 and again in 1975 while the priest was at St. Mark Catholic Church in Chalmette.

The complainant was 14 at the time of the first alleged incident and is now 44, authorities have said.

The accuser, who hasn't been identified, and his attorney, former St. Tammany District Attorney Marion Farmer, met last week with sheriff's detectives from St. Bernard and St. Tammany parishes so he could tell authorities specifically what happened, according to Col. Richard Baumy of the St. Bernard Sheriff's Office.

After the meeting, sheriff's detectives said they believed the time period for prosecuting a sexual charge would have expired under state law when the man reached his 28th birthday, 16 years ago, Baumy said.

Detectives contacted St. Bernard District Attorney Jack Rowley, who said he would review the allegations, Baumy said. Rowley, reached Wednesday, said he could not discuss the matter.

St. Tammany sheriff's officials in the investigation couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday.

Farmer said Wednesday the district attorney in both parishes will have to decide if criminal charges are viable.

He said sheriff's detectives questioned the accuser for about 90 minutes. "They did a thorough job of looking into the matter."

Archdiocese of New Orleans officials had said in March the accuser didn't want to be identified and might not want a criminal prosecution even if it were possible.

Farmer, however, said his client met with authorities because "I think he just wanted to make them aware of what happened. He left it up to them" on whether prosecution was possible.

Farmer said his client "was prepared to go forward with it" if sheriff's detectives and prosecutors said a criminal case could still be made.

The Rev. William Maestri, spokesman for the archdiocese, said Wednesday that the allegations made by the man in March soon will be presented to an archdiocese review board headed by former state Attorney General William Guste, although Kinane has already been put on administrative leave.

A report would be forwarded to the Vatican, Maestri said, adding that eventually the matter could come back to the archdiocese for a decision by a local canon law tribunal, which could remove Kinane from the priesthood if the allegations are believed to be true.

Kinane is receiving support from the archdiocese while his case is being determined, although he can't live on church property, Maestri said.

 
 

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