Allegations Too Old to Prosecute
No Complaints Filed Against Omaha Pastor Before Video Found Time Line

By Julia McCord
Omaha World Herald
August 1, 1997

No complaints of improper conduct with a minor had been lodged against the Rev. Daniel P. Herek before the discovery of pornographic materials in the St. Richard Catholic Church rectory, the Archdiocese of Omaha said Thursday.

Herek, 52, has been pastor of St. Richard, 4320 Fort St., for five years and a priest for 26 years. Omaha police are investigating him in connection with pornography involving at least one boy who attends his church.

The Rev. Michael Gutgsell, diocesan chancellor, said he had received no such complaints about Herek during his 31/2 years as chancellor. He also has found none in Herek's file.

Omaha Police Lt. John Lehotyak, head of the youth services unit, said Thursday that several people have told police about alleged incidents involving Herek. But because they allegedly happened 15 to 20 years ago, they would be too old to prosecute, he said.

Police want to hear about incidents allegedly involving Herek that occurred after 1987, Lehotyak said.

Herek was assistant pastor at Assumption, Christ the King, St. Joan of Arc, Mary Our Queen, St. Peter and St. Bernard parishes in Omaha from 1971 to 1982.

He was pastor of St. Michael Church in Coleridge, Neb., and St. Mary Mission in Belden, Neb., from 1982 to 1985; of Holy Cross Church in Beemer, Neb., from 1985 to 1989; and of St. Ann Parish in Omaha from 1989 to 1992. He took over the St. Richard pulpit in 1992.

Gutgsell said the archdiocese will provide counseling to anyone whose complaint is found to be valid, including the St. Richard minor who appeared in a segment of the pornographic video found May 12 in the parish rectory.

The boy has not asked for counseling or acknowledged that there was anything "physical or sexual with Father Herek," Gutgsell said.

"As a result, we have no claim for help," he said. "But if anyone does come forward, and we can factually substantiate the charge, we do accept responsibility to assist that person."

Herek has not been arrested or charged with any crimes. He is undergoing treatment at St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md. The institute specializes in treating clergy with sexual disorders.

The archdiocese has scheduled a meeting with parents of pupils at the parish's elementary school and St. Richard parishioners for 7 p.m. Monday at the school.

Gutgsell said the archdiocese has followed the procedures outlined in its policy relating to sexual misconduct and has cooperated fully with the police.

The policy stipulates that each reported incident must be investigated immediately "with care taken not to interfere with any criminal investigation."

"It also states," Gutgsell said, "that the alleged perpetrator must be relieved of his responsibilities immediately. This was done."

There was a 14-day gap between the discovery of a video and two pornographic photos in the church rectory on May 12 and the notification of the police on May 28.

During that time, Gutgsell said, the archdiocese was conducting an internal investigation.

Lehotyak did not criticize the archdiocese for the time lag between the discovery of the pictures and the call to police.

"At this point, they're cooperating with us," he said. "That's satisfactory at this time."

Lehotyak said he expected it to take at least two to six weeks for police to sift through the information and determine whether to make an arrest. Police want to pursue the case cautiously, he said.

"For right now, he's not in a position to hurt anybody in Omaha."

Time Line

May 12: Discovery of the pornographic materials by a cleaning woman.

May 13: Materials turned over to the Rev. Michael Gutsgell, diocesan chancellor.

May 14: Gutsgell and Archbishop Elden Curtiss meet with Herek.

May 15: Herek dispatched to Silver Spring; internal investigation begins.

May 23: Gutsgell flies to Silver Spring for staff evaluation of Herek.

May 24: Gutsgell meets with St. Richard staff.

May 27: Gutsgell interviews each staff member individually.

May 28: The police are called.

May 29: Pornographic materials are turned over to the police.


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