Priest Had Been Accused Before, Reports Show
Inquiry Thwarted by Legal Limits

By Diego Bunuel
Sun-Sentinel [Fort Lauderdale FL]
September 9, 1999

A year before accusations of sexual impropriety that forced the Rev. Joseph Cinesi to resign last month, a man filed a report with Fort Lauderdale police detailing much more serious allegations against the priest.

The man, now 32, told police in July 1998 that when he was between 12 and 15 years old, Cinesi had sexual contact with him about 100 times.

Police did not investigate the case and filed it as a suspicious incident because it had happened so long ago that the statute of limitations had run out, said Mike Reed, a spokesman for Fort Lauderdale police.

"Unfortunately in this case there was such a delay in reporting it that the only thing we could do is keep it in our records in case something else came up," Reed said.

On Aug. 2, a complaint was filed with police accusing Cinesi of stalking and sexually harassing a man who lived next to St. Jerome parish in Fort Lauderdale, where Cinesi then ministered in April 1998.

Cinesi could not be reached for comment, but he has denied any wrongdoing. His attorney, Kenneth Rubin, declined to comment, saying it was his firm's policy not to talk about ongoing cases.

Police are wrapping up their investigation of both complaints against Cinesi, and will turn their findings over to prosecutors, who will decide whether charges should be filed, Reed said.

Russell Adler, who represents both men, filed an injunction on Aug. 11 asking a judge to order Cinesi to stay away from the man who said he was stalked and harassed.

The men are not being identified because state law extends civil liability to anyone who reveals the identity of a victim of a sexual offense.

A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami said it supports Cinesi, who stepped down as pastor at St. Maurice Catholic Church on Aug. 30, after another anonymous accusation against him was made by a third man. After Adler asked for the injunction, which has not yet been granted, the third accuser contacted Adler and told him Cinesi had touched him in an improper way when he attended Immaculate Conception Church in Hialeah 15 years ago. He hasn't filed a complaint with police.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said Cinesi stepped down to concentrate on his legal battles. His departure prompted an outcry from many parishioners who wanted him to stay.

The man who first complained to police in 1998 said Cinesi fondled him and had oral sex with him while he served at a number of jobs, including altar boy, at Immaculate Conception Church. He said that Cinesi, who is known as Father Joe in the archdiocese, was a good friend of his parents.

"I used to do work around the church to help him," the man said. He said he didn't come forward because he was embarrassed, but finally did so on the advice of his therapist.

"What has really been bothering me for the past 17 years is how many lives could have been affected by this man (Cinesi)," the man said. "I saw my first therapist in 1987 and decided last year that I wanted to do something to prevent it from happening to other children."


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