New Complaints against Priest Can't Be Prosecuted
4 Allegations against Ex-Valley Cleric Are Too Old, DA in Texas Says
By Ron Devlin
Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
October 15, 2002
Texas authorities investigating a former Allentown Catholic diocesan priest on sexual abuse allegations say reports of previous incidents in the Lehigh Valley and Berks County, even if proved true, would be of little use in prosecuting 73-year-old Rev. Edward R. Graff.
"We talked to Lehigh County authorities," said Briscoe County District Attorney Becky McPherson in Texas, "and they told us the statute of limitations had expired."
After Graff was arrested Oct. 4 on charges of molesting a 15-year-old boy, Texas authorities received reports of similar sexual abuse allegations from people in the Allentown Diocese.
Jay Foster, a Texas Ranger on the Graff case, told an Amarillo newspaper he had received four calls from Pennsylvania residents. McPherson acknowledged Monday that she, too, had received calls from people who said they had been abused by Graff before he left the Allentown Diocese in 1988.
McPherson did not recall how many calls her office had received, but said they came from people in the Allentown and Reading areas. Some calls, she said, were anonymous.
None of the allegations from Pennsylvania residents, the district attorney said, are being investigated by Texas authorities.
Voices from his Lehigh Valley past, however, could return to haunt Graff if he is convicted in the Texas case.
"We have jury sentencing in Texas," McPherson explained, "and a person's background can come up during the sentencing phase."
Graff already faces sexual abuse allegations in one Texas case, but authorities are investigating allegations from 15 others in Texas who claim to be his victims.
When the investigations are complete, perhaps by December, prosecutors will take the allegations before a Texas grand jury. The grand jury will decide if Graff should be charged, and with what offense, if any.
When Graff left the Allentown Diocese, he went to New Mexico to undergo treatment for alcoholism.
He is in a Lubbock area hospital being treated for a broken hip. Authorities say he fell while taking a shower at the Swisher County Jail. Briscoe County does not have a jail, Sheriff Jeff Fuston said, and uses the Swisher jail.
Fuston ruled out foul play in the aging priest's injury while in jail. He said he was being held in isolation, and was alone in the shower when he fell and broke his hip.
"He's very frail," the sheriff said.
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