Records on Ex-Priest Won't Include Accusers' IDs

By Darren Barbee
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
March 10, 2006

FORT WORTH — State District Judge Len Wade ruled Friday that records concerning a former Arlington priest accused of sexual misconduct with seven women and girls will be opened to the public after details, including accusers' identities, are removed.

Wade ruled last month that he would release the files of six other priests in the Fort Worth Roman Catholic Diocese who have been accused of sexual misconduct since the diocese was founded in 1969. But he postponed a decision on how to handle the records of the Rev. Joseph Tu Ngoc Nguyen, who now serves in Houston.

At a hearing last month, Tu's attorney, H. Allen Pennington Jr., told the judge that two of the priest's accusers included in the files did not want to be involved in the case. Within a week, the two women involved filed court documents saying that they wanted the records opened and that they had not talked to Tu's attorney.

"After reviewing the files relating to Joseph Tu Ngoc Nguyen, the court has decided that the files are court records and the record is insufficient to rebut the presumption of openness," Wade wrote Friday in a letter to attorneys.

Pennington, of Fort Worth, did not return a message Friday seeking comment. In court documents, he opposed releasing Tu's files, saying any public interest in Tu's case had been satisfied through news reports and church statements.

Bishop Kevin W. Vann, leader of the Fort Worth Diocese, said Friday that Wade's previous rulings met one of his concerns: that the accusers' names might be revealed if the files were released. But Vann said an early release of the documents by the diocese is unlikely.

Vann also said a diocese official recently visited Tu's former Arlington parish, St. Matthew Catholic Church, "trying to do outreach to any victims in this matter." Tu, a Dominican order priest, last served in the diocese in 1993.

A diocese spokesman said visits to other parishes where Tu was involved have been planned.

This week, a seventh womanaccused Tu of misconduct, according to documents she filed in state District Court.

The Tarrant County woman, who is in her late 20s, alleges in court documents that in the mid-1980s, when she was 9 or 10 years old, Tu placed his hand on her knee and "began moving his hand under my skirt and up my leg and inner thigh toward my genitals." In a second incident, she said, he put his hands on her knees and started moving them up her legs, according to court documents.

The allegation is the first by any of the seven women involving what is described as attempted genital contact. Three of the other women also accuse Tu of touching them inappropriately when they were minors.

Tu's Dominican superiors have temporarily suspended him because of a separate allegation involving the fondling of a 13-year-old girl's breasts in the 1970s. In court documents, Tu has said he was unaware of the allegation, and his attorney has asked to question her and other accusers.

Officials at the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston have said no complaints have been lodged against Tusince he began serving there in 1994.

The Star-Telegram, The Dallas Morning News and several accusers have asked Wade to release the documents.

Wade has said he expects the diocese to appeal any release. He has not said how long it will take him to review the hundreds of pages of the seven priests' files. In Friday's letter, Wade said he had not received the duplicate copies of the documents he requested from the diocese.

Wade wrote that he wants them by March 20.


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