Prosecutors have investigated 360 people, including 100 priests, accused of sex abuse in the Cleveland’s Roman Catholic Diocese over the last 50 years.
The time limits for bringing charges have been exceeded in almost all the cases, but Cuyahoga County prosecutor William Mason said he expects some indictments from the five-month investigation.
“Our first priority was to protect the children who are in the schools now and those who will come in the future,” Mason told The Plain Dealer for Tuesday’s editions. “To accomplish this, we needed to take the child abusers out of commission, if they still exist.”
His spokeswoman, Kim Kowalski, said Tuesday that investigators have interviewed more than 700 people claiming sexual abuse against priests, nuns, lay teachers, administrators, custodians and school-age students and parents.
She said there was no timetable for presenting cases to the grand jury. “It’s hard to say. We have to go through which ones can go to the grand jury,” she said.
Since April, four prosecutors working full time and 25 others working part time have sifted through more than 37,000 pages of diocesan documents.
Most of those suspected of abuse will find protection in the statute of limitations, which until 1999 gave alleged victims six years to report the crime after they turned 18 or, in the case of repressed memories, after they recalled the abuse and told someone about it.
In 1999, the statute of limitations law was stretched to 20 years but covered only cases that occurred since 1993.
“The statute of limitations, unfortunately, is letting a lot of guilty people get away with crimes,” said Regina Scolaro of San Francisco, who accused the late Rev. Donald Rooney of molesting her as an 11-year-old at St. Patrick’s School in Cleveland’s West Park neighborhood.
Rooney committed suicide in April after he was summoned by the bishop to discuss an abuse allegation.