More Charges Filed Against Former Priest
NEWTON - A sixth criminal charge was filed Thursday in Harvey County District Court against a former priest in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.
Robert K. Larson, who was a priest in the diocese for 30 years, is accused of indecent liberties with a child in connection with an incident that prosecutors allege occurred in December 1986 and involved a 14-year-old boy. Larson was removed from St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newton in 1988 and sent out of state for evaluation and treatment.
Larson has already been charged with four counts of indecent liberties with a child and one count of sexual battery. Those charges are related to incident s that prosecutors allege occurred between 1984 and 1986 in Newton. All four of the victims referred to in those charges were altar boys at St. Mary's.
If convicted, Larson, 71, could face anywhere from three to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 on each indecent liberties charge, and up to a year in jail and a fine of $2,500 on the sexual battery charge. He posted bail and was allowed to return to his home in Willoughby, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb.
A preliminary hearing in the case is set for Feb. 6 before Judge Theodore Ice.
Dan Monnat, Larson's lawyer, filed a motion Tuesday accusing Harvey County Attorney Matt Treaster of "ethical, statutory and constitutional violations."
Those violations, Monnat's motion states, "have stymied Mr. Larson's efforts and ability to defend against the stale charges he faces."
In the motion, Monnat accused Treaster of directing witnesses not to talk to him or his representatives, which impedes an ethical and constitutional duty by a defense lawyer to investigate the charges against his or her client.
In a letter to Monnat's office dated Jan. 6, Treaster asked that Monnat and his agents not contact people who claim to be victims of Larson or their families.
"They made it very clear yesterday that they do not want to have contact with the defense in this matter," states Treaster's letter, which is included as an exhibit in Monnat's motion.
Witnesses in criminal cases are not required to speak to defense lawyers prior to court proceedings, though they can if they want to. In a form letter drafted Jan. 9 for potential witnesses in the case, Treaster states, "It is my preference that you not speak to the defense in this matter at this time."
Monnat alleges in his motion that that statement prejudices witnesses against speaking to him. A hearing on the motion has been set for next Thursday before Judge Ice.
Treaster declined comment on the additional charge and the motion, citing Ice's instructions to limit discussion of the case.
Reach Stan Finger at 268-6437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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