Court denies appeal of former high school priest in prison for sex abuse

By Danielle Salisbury
November 26, 2017

JACKSON, MI - A former Lumen Christ High School priest and convicted child predator contends charges brought against him in 2015 were barred by the statute of limitations and should have been dismissed.

The Court of Appeals in November rejected this and other arguments, assuring James Rapp, barring a successful higher court appeal, will continue serving 20 to 40 years in prison for first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Rapp, now 77, was accused of molesting boys from Aug. 1, 1981 to Feb. 28, 1986 while he worked at the high school, serving as a teacher, maintenance supervisor and wrestling coach. He was not charged with any related offenses until decades later, in May 2015, which far exceeded the applicable six-year statute of limitations.

The defrocked priest, however, was in Maryland, California, Illinois and Oklahoma, and the years he was out of the state do not count toward the limitations period, since abolished for the most severe sexual assault cases, the Court of Appeals found.

"The fact that (Rapp) was incarcerated outside the state of Michigan for other criminal actions and therefore was unable during that time to return... is irrelevant," states the unanimous opinion, short at six pages.

Rapp was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Oklahoma, where he was a priest and teacher in the 1990s after receiving mental health treatment at a facility for priests. He was apparently diagnosed with "ephebophilia," a preference for post-pubescent adolescent sexual partners, but continued to work for the Catholic Church, the Court of Appeals noted.

In his appeal, Rapp, housed at the Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility in Ionia, further contended the delay in his arrest deprived him of the ability to show the allegations were untrue. "But (Rapp) does not specifically identify any documentary evidence that would have established an alibi for him. (Rapp) thus has failed to articulate any actual and substantial prejudice resulting from the... delay," states the decision.

Rapp, extradited to Michigan, pleaded guilty in February 2016 to three counts of both first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Two men had gone to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office in the spring of 2013, launching an investigation. More came forward after Rapp was formally implicated. In total, there were more than 10 victims in Jackson County alone.

Many of them spoke at what was an emotional sentencing hearing. "Looking at that picture in front of me from 1984, and I wonder who I could have been," Andrew Russell said. "His crime and position was a murder on my soul. He's a monster and his path of destruction extends far further than it ever should have."

Rapp was ordained in 1959 and worked all over the country, in Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and New York before coming to Jackson.


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