Haitian Police Question Ex-Priest from Indiana
Suspect in Child Sex Abuse Interrogated for Alleged Involvement in Massive Prison Break
By Robert King
February 25, 2005
A former Roman Catholic priest from Indiana was detained and questioned Wednesday by Haitian police amid allegations that his residence was used to plan a massive prison break that occurred Saturday.
Ron Voss, who moved to Haiti after accusations of child sexual abuse were made against him in the Diocese of Lafayette, was questioned for more than five hours Wednesday night. Police also seized his passport.
Voss runs Visitation House, a stopover for mission teams visiting Haiti.
Bill Quigley, an Indianapolis native and law school professor at Loyola University in New Orleans, was part of a team setting up a medical clinic in Haiti and was a temporary resident at Visitation House when police arrived.
Quigley said 12 officers in riot gear, wielding machine guns, cut a lock on the gate and entered the house to search for escaped prisoners, weapons and evidence of the plot that freed nearly 500 inmates from the National Penitentiary.
"They were coming into what they thought was an armed camp," Quigley said. "It was a sight that I hope few people ever have a chance to see."
Voss was not available for comment Thursday. Quigley said Voss was sleeping after police postponed a second round of questioning because of the lack of a translator or a representative from the U.S. Embassy -- as Haitian law requires.
Quigley said the idea that Voss was involved in planning the prison break was "absolutely ludicrous." Word on the streets is that drug gangs were responsible, Quigley said. He would not discount the possibility that Voss was targeted by the current government because of his friendship with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the president who was overthrown in a coup last year.
Last fall, Quigley represented a Haitian priest who spent 48 days in jail on a charge of disorderly conduct. The priest had been outspoken about Haiti's human rights and economic problems.
"There is plenty of people who think this is totally political harassment," Quigley said.
Voss moved to Haiti after allegations of child sexual abuse in Indiana arose in 1988. He officially left the priesthood in 1993.
An investigative report by The Indianapolis Star in 1997 documented claims of sexual abuse against 16 priests in the Lafayette Diocese, which includes counties north of Indianapolis, and the diocese's efforts to keep those claims quiet. The report also documented claims that Voss abused eight male teenagers.
In October, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said Voss posed a continuing threat to the children of Haiti because of their vulnerability in an impoverished country and because of Haiti's lax law enforcement system. It called on Catholic leaders to do more to warn others about Voss.
Because Voss had left the priesthood, Catholic leaders said they had no further jurisdiction. Besides, they said, Voss had gone through therapy and experts had determined he was no longer a threat to minors.
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