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2 Charged In Probe of Abuse By Priests

Mar 23, 2003 | AP

A yearlong investigation into clergy in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has resulted in a Roman Catholic priest and a former colleague being charged with sexual crimes involving boys.

The archdiocese said it re gretted the charges and is cooperating with the inves tigation, which prosecutors said is continu ing.

The Rev. Kenneth Schoettmer, who is on leave, was charged with gross sexual imposition, sexual battery and rape, Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael Allen said.

Schoettmer, who is accused of using force to sexually abuse a 17-year-old boy he was counseling in 1999, could be sentenced to 15 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

The former Rev. George Cooley was charged with eight felony counts of gross sexual imposition, each punishable by three to 10 years in prison. Allen said Cooley abused a boy from age 8 to 12, starting in 1984, when Cooley was a priest at Guardian Angels Parish in Cincinnati.

Cooley went to jail for three months in 1991 after being convicted of molesting boys. He then served 15 more months for violating probation by leaving the county. Cooley was removed from the priesthood in 1997 after an ecclesiastical trial, archdiocese officials said.

Schoettmer was placed on leave in 2001 after admitting to his congregation at Queen of Peace Church in Millville that he had sexual encounters with male teens. Schoettmer is not allowed to present himself as a priest or to administer sacraments, archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco said.

Arrest warrants were issued Friday.

Cooley and Schoettmer could not be reached for comment and had no listed telephone numbers.

Allen began investigating after Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk said last March that as many as five priests accused of abusing teenagers were working in the archdiocese. Pilarczyk said none of those priests was in a position in which they could endanger children.

"I deeply regret that anyone representing the archdiocese, especially any priest, has ever committed this repugnant crime," Pilarczyk said in a statement Friday. "I pray that these indictments will lead to justice and a measure of healing for the victims."

Prosecutors investigated sexual abuse claims from about 75 people dating as far back as 40 years ago, and some of the priests who were accused have died, Allen said. Some of the allegations were not crimes, and the statute of limitations had run out on others, he said.

"It's devastating to the victims. It's frustrating to us. Our hands are tied," Allen said of the older cases.

Dr. Michael Hancock, a physician who leads a Cincinnati chapter of Survivors of Those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group for people sexually abused by clergy, said he was encouraged by the indictments.

"I think it's a step in the right direction. The more that these crimes are exposed, the better it is for the victims," Hancock said.

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