Bishop Accountability

Details Sought in Priest Sex Abuse Case
Claim involves boy at Johnson County parish

By Mike McWilliams
Iowa City Press-Citizen
August 20, 2004

Johnson County Attorney J. Patrick White said Thursday he expects to decide in the next couple of weeks how to proceed with a 1998 sex abuse allegation involving a boy and a priest at a Johnson County parish.

The allegation comes through the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport. White said he is just now learning about the claims, though the diocese phoned an attorney in his office last summer.

Then, and now, the diocese has maintained that the alleged victim wants to remain anonymous and does not want to press charges. Should White decide to proceed, it would be the first prosecution of a priest in Johnson County since 1989.

"I don't even know his name at this point," White said of the priest.

Diocese attorney Rand Wonio said the diocese investigator has one more person to interview before an internal investigation is complete, at which time a decision will be made on whether to identify the priest and alleged victim.

"The victim has hired a lawyer and everything else, and he is just desperate to maintain his confidentiality from family and everybody else," Wonio said. "Until we're done with the investigation and take it to the (diocese) review board, which is supposed to be as early as next week, we'll figure out what to do before we make any public announcements."

Wonio said he thinks the victim reported the alleged abuse to another priest at the parish. That priest then contacted the diocese, who reported the claim to Assistant Johnson County attorney Anne Lahey on July 11, 2003.

Wonio declined to say in which parish the accused priest was serving. The alleged victim's lawyer, Kent Simmons of Davenport was out of the office Thursday.

"The priest at issue was not serving at the Johnson County parish at the time the report was made," Wonio said. "He had been gone from the diocese for some period of time."

In 1989, the Rev. James Leu was arrested for sexual abuse of minors while assigned to St. Mary Church in Lone Tree. He pleaded guilty and received a two-year prison sentence. Leu has had no assignment since his release. The Diocesan Review Board recently reviewed his case and, in a recommendation sent to Rome, suggested that his status be maintained, diocese records show.

In the latest case, because the alleged victim indicated he does not want to press charges, there has been little or no criminal investigation done into the matter since the report was filed.

"I don't think there's any ongoing investigation," Lahey said. "The only contact I had is back in July in 2003."

White said he received a one-page fax from a deposition last week that indicated the diocese had filed a report in Johnson County.

"It was news to me," White said. "I didn't recognize it."

He declined comment on whether he since had contacted the diocese or to detail what steps he is taking in response. White referred to civil litigation in Scott County. Davenport lawyer Craig Levien said he is representing another sex abuse victim from Iowa City but has not filed a lawsuit because the diocese wants to settle out of court.

Levien, who represents about 35 alleged priest sex abuse victims, said he thinks the diocese is purposefully concealing sexual misconduct by priests and not living up to its policies regarding sharing information about abusive priests.

"I have made the argument sexual misconduct of minors in the past with priests in the diocese ... that that practice continues and the example of the Johnson County case is evidence of that," Levien said. "My understanding is that they are to disclose the name of the priest so that parishioners can protect themselves and their children and also so if there's other victims, these victims can come forward and know that they're not the only person who's been abused."

Wonio called Levien's concealment allegations "absolute and utter nonsense."

"The diocese is thoroughly following it's own policies," Wonio said. "We're thoroughly cooperating in any way we can with the authorities, and we're doing what we can to attempt to help this victim who does not want any notoriety nor did he want to press charges. We're doing everything right here."

Reach Mike McWilliams at 339-7360 or


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