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Priest Turns Himself In To Face cCharge Of Indecent Liberties With Minor

Jun 15, 2002 | The Kansas City Star

A Roman Catholic priest turned himself in Friday to Douglas County authorities on a charge involving the sexual abuse of a teen-age boy, eight days after a similar charge was filed against him in another Kansas county.

The Rev. Dennis E. Schmitz, 41, of Marysville, Kan., was charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor, a felony. He was freed on $15,000 bond, according to the Douglas County Sheriff's Department.

The same charge was filed against Schmitz in Nemaha County, in northeast Kansas, on June 6. Schmitz was freed on $50,000 bond in that case.

Both cases involve the same boy, who was about 15 at the time of the alleged abuse in the late 1990s, according to authorities and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

Schmitz has referred questions to his attorney, Stephen Mirakian. He could not be reached for comment Friday.

Schmitz, a priest in the archdiocese since 1989, was removed as pastor of St. Gregory's parish in Marysville and St. Malachy's parish in Beattie, Kan., when the allegations surfaced last month. The archdiocese immediately turned the allegations over to authorities.

"We're doing what we need to do on this case," Archbishop James P. Keleher said Friday from the spring meeting of the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops in Dallas, where the sole agenda item is clergy sex abuse. "But the whole case is very sad."

Keleher added that the archdiocese had received many calls from parishioners supporting Schmitz.

The Douglas County complaint alleges that Schmitz "did unlawfully and feloniously engage in any lewd fondling or touching of a child who is 14 or more years of age, but less than 16 years."

Schmitz's first court appearance in the Douglas County case has been scheduled for June 26 at the Douglas County Courthouse in Lawrence.

If convicted, Schmitz could be sentenced to between 31 and 136 months in prison on each count, depending upon prior criminal history.

Schmitz has served many parishes in Johnson County. He also was chaplain at Bishop Miege High School. From 1994 until July 2001 he oversaw recruitment of new priests for the archdiocese. He also is the founder of the Runnin' Revs, a basketball team that competes against youth teams from Catholic schools.

Schmitz is thought to be the first priest from a local diocese to face such charges in the Kansas City area in more than a decade.

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