Cincinnati Enquirer / cincinnati.com
December 2, 2021
By Kevin Grasha
A Cincinnati priest pleaded guilty Thursday to raping an altar boy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a day before jury selection was set to begin in his trial.
The Rev. Geoff Drew showed no emotion in court as the victim, now a man in his 40s, as well as the man’s wife described the impact of Drew’s crimes.
“You killed me,” the man told Drew. “I’ve been through hell.”
The man’s wife said that for many years her husband believed he was to blame for what happened.
“That he had been too weak … or too kind or too trusting,” she said. “That he was unloved, and worst of all, that he was alone.”
As part of the plea agreement, Drew received a seven-year prison sentence, a sentence the victim had been consulted about, according to prosecutors.
Drew pleaded guilty to nine counts of rape for incidents that happened between 1988 and 1991.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Leslie Ghiz told Drew that he should be thankful for the plea deal because if a jury had found him guilty, she would have sent him to prison for the rest of his life.
Jury selection had been scheduled to begin Friday.
The man Drew sexually assaulted had been a student of his at St. Jude in Bridgetown, according to prosecutors, where Drew was a music minister.
Drew also taught at Elder High School in West Price Hill.
Prosecutors said the sexual assaults happened in Drew’s office at St. Jude. That was more than a decade before Drew became a priest.
Drew was ordained a priest in 2004, and most recently was pastor at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Green Township and also has worked at St. Maximilian Kolbe in Liberty Township.
In a statement released after Thursday’s plea and sentencing, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said Drew “will never again have a priestly assignment” in any diocese.
The archdiocese said it will seek the “laicization” of Drew, meaning he can no longer conduct Mass, hear confessions or administer sacraments.
Drew will be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life.
The archdiocese suspended Drew as pastor at St. Ignatius in July 2019 after parents of a teenage boy complained that Drew had sent him text messages. The messages were not sexual in nature, church officials said, but they violated child protection rules.
Shortly before Drew was placed on administrative leave, the victim in the rape case said he spoke with a Cincinnati police detective about what happened. At the time, he said telling his story to authorities helped him to “heal and free myself from this past.”
In court Thursday, his wife described how he had seen a photo of Drew on social media baptizing the child of someone he knew.
That led him to want to come forward, although it took more than a year, his wife said, because he didn’t think anyone would believe him.
Drew was arrested in August 2019 and has already spent more than two years in jail awaiting trial.
In court Thursday, the man said Drew had ruined the majority of his life, leaving him depressed, confused, scared and broken. He said the amount of time Drew spends in prison wouldn’t change how he feels.
“The truth is, no amount of time will make up for the child inside that you murdered,” he said.
Prosecutors have said there were other alleged victims, including another student at St. Jude, who, according to court documents, Drew began grooming and then sexually assaulting between 1985 and 1987.
Drew, however, was not charged in connection with those allegations because prosecutors said they fell outside the statute of limitations.
One of the highest-ranking officials in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati resigned over how he handled complaints about the behavior of Drew.
Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Binzer, who had ranked below only Archbishop Dennis Schnurr in the archdiocese’s hierarchy, left his post in May 2020 and was assigned to another job as a priest, rather than as a bishop.
Binzer had also served as priest personnel director for the archdiocese, but Schnurr removed him from that role after he failed to bring past concerns about Drew’s conduct to the attention of the archbishop and the priest personnel board.
Binzer apologized for his handling of the complaints about Drew and said he’d offered his resignation to the Vatican, which was accepted by Pope Francis.
Enquirer Reporter Cameron Knight and The Enquirer archives contributed.