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  Taking Cover under the Red, White and Blue Canada Lets 4 Accused of Child Molestation Call U.S. Home

By Brooks Egerton and Reese Dunklin
Dallas Morning News
December 7, 2004

Last of three parts

Catholic workers accused of sexual abuse sometimes start over in the United States after getting special treatment from justice officials abroad.

Four religious brothers from one rural Canadian province, for instance, are living free in this country.

Two of the men are fugitives whom Canadian prosecutors have never tried to bring back for trial. A prosecutor who opposed one man's extradition became his attorney in a lawsuit over the alleged abuse.

The other two are convicts. One was let out of prison unusually early. The other was sentenced to house arrest but allowed to move to New York - where no one has the authority to supervise him - and is working in lay ministry.

U.S. authorities are investigating, based on The Dallas Morning News' findings.

"We're concerned about these matters," said Jamie Zuieback, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman in Washington, D.C. "We're looking into what avenues can be pursued."

Some officials in Canada are upset, too. Vic Toews, a Parliament member who speaks for the Conservative Party on crime issues, is seeking a federal inquiry on his side of the border. He said the cases undermine his country's policy of aggressively combating child molestation.

Mr. Toews, a former prosecutor, said leaving the men free in the United States "gives them another opportunity to abuse."

The News' findings are part of a yearlong investigation into how Catholic priests and other church workers accused of sexual abuse move from country to country. Religious leaders aren't the only ones helping them - justice officials, through direct involvement or inaction, sometimes do, too.

The four Canadian cases began in Newfoundland and Labrador, a sprawling province of about a half-million people in the easternmost part of the nation.

An orphanage in the province was the scene of one of the country's worst clergy abuse scandals, which authorities and church leaders covered up when allegations first surfaced in the 1970s. Two top justice officials, for example, cut a deal with the Catholic order that ran the Mount Cashel orphanage. Two accused workers left Newfoundland and faced no charges, despite statements that police had taken from several victims.

The complaints resurfaced in the late 1980s, causing public outrage and leading to a government inquiry that documented the church-state collusion. Newfoundland's justice system later admitted it "failed in its responsibilities to these children" and convicted about a dozen members of the order, the Christian Brothers of Ireland in Canada.

Past still swirls

Controversy over the now-demolished Mount Cashel orphanage continues to this day. More than 80 victims recently won payments from the Christian Brothers' assets, but they had to surrender their right to sue Newfoundland's government.

And the final Mount Cashel prosecution ended a few months ago with special consideration for the guilty party.

Justice Seamus O'Regan rejected prosecutors' recommendation of prison time and gave John Evangelist Murphy 20 months of house arrest for fondling four boys in the 1950s. Then the judge took the extraordinary step of letting him return to upstate New York, where he had lived for years before he was extradited for trial.

Had Mr. Murphy served his sentence in Newfoundland, he would have been required to wear an electronic monitor and been subject to random visits by authorities and drug testing.

New York authorities said they had no standing to supervise him, and a top Newfoundland corrections official conceded that little could be done to enforce the sentence.

"Quite frankly, we believe the court may have exceeded its jurisdiction," said Marvin McNutt, head of the Division of Corrections and Community Services in Newfoundland.

Justice O'Regan said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the sentence. In court, he cited Mr. Murphy's age and "exemplary lifestyle" since leaving Mount Cashel as reasons for his decision.

Mr. Murphy, 75, was a teacher at the orphanage but left the Christian Brothers decades ago. He moved to the United States, married, raised a family and taught school.

On a recent Sunday, he read from the Bible during Mass at St. Joseph's Church in Dolgeville, N.Y. He later said he's simply following his sentence, which permits a range of activities outside his home.

"I can go visit people in the hospital and cheer them up," he said, "and I can drive people to and from their errands."

Mr. Murphy's pastor, the Rev. Leo Potvin, declined to comment on his lay ministry. Albany Diocese officials said they were unaware of the situation and would investigate.

Lack of remorse

Mr. Murphy's former colleague and fellow convict Ronald Justin Lasik, 73, is also free in New York now because of an unusual decision in Canada.

Police and prosecutors had called him the worst of Mount Cashel's abusers. A judge noted his lack of remorse for sexually assaulting and beating seven boys in the 1950s, incidents she said were on "the higher end of seriousness." She rejected a bid for leniency because of his age and sentenced him to 101/2 years in prison - more than any of the orphanage's other workers.

"I recognized that the offender has had the benefit in his more youthful years of a free lifestyle without having been called upon to account for his criminal activities," Justice Maureen Dunn said during the 1999 court hearing.

But a third of the way through his term, federal parole officials released him after determining he was a low risk, citing his completion of a treatment program and good behavior. It was the minimum he was required to serve, and far less than most sex offenders do in Canada.

Early release is especially rare when abusers remain unapologetic, Canadian experts say. The national parole board's written rationale for releasing Brother Lasik included this statement: "You continue to deny your guilt and have failed to display victim empathy or remorse."

Brother Lasik was deported in 2003 to the United States, where he, too, had lived before Canada forced him to trial. He faces no standard post-prison requirements, such as living in a halfway house or meeting with a parole officer.

"Of course, our laws don't follow him to the United States, but we do everything we can to notify the state where he's going," said parole board official Brian Chase. "Canada's not looking to dump its problems on the U.S. or any other country."

Brother Lasik is registered as a sex offender in New York, where he lives at a Christian Brothers residence about 100 miles north of New York City. The state, unlike Canada, classified him as a high risk. He refused to answer questions by phone and hung up on a reporter. Christian Brothers officials in New York did not respond to messages.

Former Mount Cashel resident Patrick Williams said several of Brother Lasik's victims were stunned by the early release.

"All of them said the same thing," he said. "What was it all for?"

Extradition opposed

Even as they were bringing some of Mount Cashel's alleged abusers to trial, Newfoundland prosecutors opposed extradition of two fugitives from other religious orders who had gone to the United States.

One was Paul Baynham, whom police charged in 1990 with abusing two adolescent boys a few years earlier in a remote tribal village. One accuser, Simeon Tshakapesh, said Mr. Baynham "grabbed me from behind and threw me on the ground and molested and choked me."

Initially, prosecutor Bernard Coffey opposed extradition on the theory that Mr. Baynham would be released on probation if convicted, as an abusive priest recently had been. But that priest might have been sentenced to prison if not for Mr. Coffey's delays in the case, a court said.

Years later, another prosecutor gave a different reason for not extraditing: The previous decision to leave Mr. Baynham free had violated his right to a speedy trial. Today, assistant director of prosecutions Kathleen Healey says her office still opposes extradition because of speedy-trial and other concerns that she would not divulge.

Ms. Healey said the charges against Mr. Baynham remain alive and that he could be arrested if he returned to Canada. But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which brought the charges, said the arrest warrant was removed from their database about three years ago for unknown reasons.

Meanwhile, Mr. Baynham's two accusers are suing him and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the order for which he worked in Newfoundland. His attorney in that lawsuit is Mr. Coffey, the former prosecutor who first opposed extradition.

The accusers asked Mr. Coffey to withdraw, contending he had a conflict of interest, but he refused. Mr. Coffey, who also represents the Oblates, declined to comment.

Mr. Baynham, 52, declined to be interviewed. In an e-mail to The News, he denied wrongdoing.

"I do intend to return and deal with all charges," he wrote, "and certainly I am not guilty of any of this."

He added that he "took bad advice years ago in not immediately responding to this, and it has caused pain to far too many people."

Mr. Baynham also stressed that he was not a fugitive when he left Canada in the mid-1980s.

From that point until 1993, he worked for another order, the Trappists, at Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky. He now works in the Washington, D.C., area for an information-technology firm that is a government contractor.

The Trappists said Canadian police came to the abbey in 1989 to interrogate Mr. Baynham but never told the order about the charges that were filed the next year. Police say the suspect wouldn't answer substantive questions.

Newfoundland prosecutors recently changed their explanation for not extraditing another religious brother, Franciscan friar Gerald Chumik. But they won't discuss the new rationale. Police say they disagree with it but won't elaborate.

The News reported in July that when Brother Chumik was charged in 1990, prosecutors said the U.S.-Canada extradition treaty didn't specifically cover the alleged crime, gross indecency. But it broadly applied to sexual abuse of children, U.S. officials have noted, and now specifically covers indecency charges.

Meanwhile, Brother Chumik has been moved from a California parish to a home for abusive clergy near St. Louis. His order previously said the 69-year-old friar would stay in California in part because he was too sick to travel.

Ms. Healey, the assistant director of prosecutions, said her office is not going easy on church workers accused of abuse who were unconnected to the high-profile Christian Brothers scandal.

"We certainly try to prosecute vigorously whenever it's feasible," she said.

Mr. Toews, the Parliament member and former prosecutor, questioned that.

"They let sleeping dogs lie," he said.

 
 

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