D.A. Questions Abuse Case Handling

By Letrell D. Crittenden
February 24, 2004

UTICA - A local priest who admitted to sexually abusing a person in the 1970s may not have reported an abuse allegation involving a colleague 30 years ago, District Attorney Michael Arcuri said Monday.

During an investigation into abuse incidents occurring in the early 1970s, Arcuri determined that Monsignor H. Charles Sewell was notified of the suspected incidents by students at Utica Catholic Academy, where he was serving as principal.

Those accusations never produced charges, however, and it is unknown what Sewell, who himself admitted to sexually abusing a person, did with the information, Arcuri said.

"It never got to law enforcement," Arcuri told The Post-Standard of Syracuse last week. "If it had been reported, things may have been very different."

Danielle Cummings, a spokesperson with the Syracuse Diocese, said they had no record of the accusation.

During his office's investigation, "credible information" was obtained that could have led to charges against the late former priest Donald J. Crosby on third-degree rape and another sexual charge, Arcuri said.

That information was obtained from several individuals who claimed they were abused by Crosby, then an instructor at the academy, during the early 1970s.

Since the incidents took place about 30 years ago, the statute of limitations for the crimes had long past.

That didn't stop Arcuri's office, however, from notifying Crosby's then employer of the suspected incidents.

With the permission of the victims, Arcuri's office then contacted the Liverpool Central School District, where Crosby was serving as a guidance counselor.

Several weeks after the district was notified, Crosby left his position, Arcuri said.

Crosby died in January, Cummings said. He was ordained as a priest in 1963 and voluntarily left the ministry in 1980 after accepting a position as a guidance counselor with the school district, she said.

Calls to Liverpool Central School District Superintendent Janice Matousek were not returned.

Cummings said she wasn't happy that the accusations against Crosby were being made public.

"I find the article questionable considering the man is dead and can't defend himself," she said.

During his tenure at Utica Catholic, Crosby was supervised by then Father Sewell.

Arcuri said the suspected victims told Sewell about the incidents while he was counseling them.

In May 2002, Sewall admitted to sexually abusing a person in the 1970s.

Sewall and the diocese have been sued by three men who claim Sewall sexually abused them a quarter-century ago.


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