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Priest's Abuse Charges Upheld

Judge says statute of limitations has not run out yet

Jun 19, 2003 | Chicago Daily Southtown A judge Wednesday upheld charges against a Diocese of Joliet priest accused of molesting boys in the parishes he served.

DuPage County Circuit Judge Ann B. Jorgensen rejected arguments by the Rev. Fred Lenczycki's attorney that the Roman Catholic cleric's actions occurred too long ago for prosecution now.

Because Lenczycki left the state in 1984, shortly after several boys at St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Hinsdale accused him of molesting them, the statute of limitations has not yet run out, Jorgensen said.

"There is no basis to conclude that the sex offender, the person charged with this offense, that they should be excluded from" prosecution, she said.

The statute of limitations on sex offenses committed on a person younger than 18 years old runs out 10 years after the victim's 18th birthday, or, if the victim reported the offense before he or she turned 18, after the victim turns 21.

In 1984, when prosecutors say Lenczycki abused children, the statute of limitations ran out one year after the victim's 18th birthday.

"We have the statute of limitations to encourage law enforcement to bring charges in a timely fashion," he told Jorgensen.

Lenczycki was indicted last November after an extensive grand jury investigation of 29 priests in the Diocese of Joliet. DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett called Lenczycki "an example of broken promises in the church."

The Diocese of Joliet removed the 58-year-old priest from St. Isaac Jogues in 1984 and transferred him out of state to various locations over the past 17 years, including a California parish where he also was accused of abuse.

He was removed from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which claimed it was never informed of his history, after a Daily Southtown investigation of priest abuse in the Joliet diocese led to exposure of his history.

Lenczycki was named in a 1997 civil lawsuit charging him with fondling parish boys. The lawsuit was later settled and the records of the case were sealed.

Birkett charged Lenczycki with five counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse with three boys from St. Isaac Jogues. All are now older than 18, but because Lenczycki was out of state, Illinois' statute of limitations on his alleged offenses did not expire, Birkett said at the time of the indictment.

DuPage County prosecutor Alex McGimpsey said the only way for Lenczycki to avoid trial now is to change his plea to guilty.

If convicted, Lenczycki could face a maximum of seven years in prison on each count.

His next court appearance is scheduled for Aug. 25.

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