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Prosecutors Provide Update On Clergy Sex Abuse Charges

Apr 13, 2003 | AP

Prosecutors have looked into complaints against 61 Catholic priests and may seek to charge as many as 10 clergy accused of sex abuse.

Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce received more than 100 complaints against 61 priests after national attention about sexual abuse by religious authorities. She told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in Saturday's edition that all the complaints seemed credible.

She said more cases won't come before a grand jury because they happened so long ago and more evidence would be needed for them to move forward.

One priest and one former priest already have been charged. Some cases did not have St. Louis jurisdiction and were referred to authorities elsewhere.

Some successful prosecutions could hinge on a court's interpretation of the statute of limitations in the case of the Rev. Thomas Graham. He is accused of sodomizing a boy about 1974.

The law blocks prosecutions for most sexual assaults occurring before Aug. 28, 1987. But Graham was charged under an old law, since rescinded, with no deadline for "abominable and detestable crimes against nature." Joyce said since it was on the books at the time, it applies to his case.

Chris Goeke, Graham's lawyer, said, "I think everybody is waiting to see what happens on the statute of limitations. It's not clear cut."

Goeke said Graham adamantly maintains his innocence.

Besides Graham, St. Louis prosecutors charged former priest James A. Beine, also known as Mar James, who is accused of exposing himself to three boys in a bathroom at a city school where he worked as a counselor. He was dismissed from the priesthood in 1977 over allegations of sexual abuse. He awaits sentencing on an unrelated federal conviction for possessing child pornography.

Elsewhere in the region, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Jack Banas said his office has received two complaints of abuse by priests that he believes are credible. But he said the statute of limitations may prevent charges.

There were 12 complaints in St. Louis County; six were referred to police for review, said Don Schneider, spokesman for Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch.

Since then, the Rev. Gary P. Wolken has pleaded guilty to charges of statutory sodomy and child molestation and is serving a 15-year prison sentence. The Rev. Bryan Kuchar is awaiting trial on allegations he abused a boy. And a request for charges against a retired priest is being considered.

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