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  Priest Guilty of Public Indecency
Also Gave Liquor to Minors, May Be Defrocked

By Rob Modic
Dayton Daily News [Ohio]
June 24, 2004

Dayton — A 63-year-old Catholic priest, the Rev. Thomas Kuhn, pleaded no contest and was convicted Wednesday on 11 misdemeanor charges of public indecency and providing alcohol to minors.

Kuhn, former pastor of St. Henry Catholic Church in Miami Twp., was convicted by Judge Mary Katherine Huffman of Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, who set sentencing for July 21.

The offenses occurred at Kuhn's former home in Miami Twp. between November 2001 and January 2002, and involved four boys and one girl, all 18 or younger.

Two of the boys attended the 17-minute plea hearing, but they did not speak or identify themselves, Detective Jim Kelly of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said.

Mike Knellinger, a former coach at Alter High School and co-founder of the local chapter of Voice Of The Faithful, a lay group, said he spoke with one of the boys.

"I told him he should feel proud of himself for having the courage to bring

this to light," Knellinger said. There is no agreement about a jail

sentence, and prosecutors will demand Kuhn spend time in jail, Prosecutor Mathias H. Heck Jr. said.

Huffman cannot sentence Kuhn to more than 18 months in jail for all of the charges combined, but she could levy $10,000 in fines.

Kuhn has remained free on a recognizance bond since he was indicted Oct. 15 on the misdemeanors following a 16-month investigation by county prosecutors and sheriff's deputies.

Prosecutors and investigators looked at 50 potential suspects and interviewed 75 to 100 persons, Heck said. The statute of limitations expired in "the vast majority" of the allegations examined and some people declined to cooperate, he said.

The plea agreement spares Kuhn any further prosecution regarding known victims, Heck said, but if more victims come forward, Kuhn could face further charges, Heck said.

Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk placed Kuhn on paid leave from the priesthood in May 2002. Sheriff's deputies seized several computers from St. Henry parish.

The computer contained "hundreds of sick, pornographic images" of men engaged in sexual conduct with other men, Heck said. Prosecutors could not determine if any images showed minors, and none could be identified, he said.

Dan Andriacco, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, said that, with Kuhn's plea, accusations against Kuhn will be brought to the Archdiocese's Child Protection Review Board, which could lead to possible defrocking. Kuhn is not allowed to call himself "Father" or to wear clerical garb, Andriacco said.

Kuhn is one of about a dozen priests under review for child abuse by the archdiocese. He was originally removed when sheriff's deputies confiscated the computer, but the case moved into the realm of "child abuse" when allegations involving minors and alcohol surfaced, Andriacco said.

Kuhn was convicted of one count of public indecency, six counts of furnishing alcohol to minors and four counts of allowing minors to possess or consume alcohol on his premises.

Prosecutors dismissed the charge of public indecency that a grand jury handed up in October and substituted a charge of public indecency, with the same range of penalties, in a bill of information.

Kuhn pleaded to an indecency charge that requires evidence he recklessly engaged in what appeared to an ordinary observer as sexual conduct, under circumstances likely to affront others not members of his household. It is a fourth-degree misdemeanor with a possible penalty of 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.

"It is important to note that this case did not involve any allegation of sexual abuse by Father Tom and that he cooperated fully with the sheriff and Montgomery County prosecutor during the investigation," Kuhn's attorneys, Roger Makely and Christopher R. Conard, said in a press release. "All the charges relate to conduct alleged to have occurred in December 2001. During that time, Father Tom was suffering from severe alcoholism. On his own initiative he entered into a treatment program in January 2002 and continues his aftercare program to this day. "

Knellinger said he had learned Kuhn had joined a retreat of teenagers in October 2001 and had used it to identify potential targets who became victims in December 2001 and January 2002.

"It was absolutely unconscionable to allow him to go on that retreat," Knellinger said.

Contact Rob Modic at 225-2282 or rmodic@DaytonDailyNews.com.

CORRECTION-DATE: June 25, 2004 Friday

CORRECTION:
• In Thursday's editions, Page A1, a story about Thomas Kuhn should have said prosecutors and investigators looked at 50 potential victims. THE PUBLISHED VERSION OF THIS STORY CONTAINED AN ERROR WHICH WAS EITHER CORRECTED OR OMITTED IN THIS ELECTRONIC FILE.

 
 

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