Black Collar CrimesClergy Crimes

October 1998 –
February 1999

A - L

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana



    POMONA – Two former altar boys who claimed they were sexually molested by the late Fr. Theodore Llanos said they were not surprised that the state Supreme Court refused to reinstate their lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The complaints were thrown out two weeks after Llanos killed himself.

    Jim Dunlap, who was molested from 1972 to 1975 in Santa Ana, said the ruling removed any hope the plaintiffs had. "We are never going to see justice," he said. "We never got our say in court and now we have no legal redress."

    Michael Winkler, who was abused from 1978 to 1980 in Covina, said, "Basically, he got away with it."
    Whittier Daily News, 2/2/99

    SANTA ROSA – Even as he was publicly assuring his flock he would deal openly with priestly misconduct, Bp. Patrick Ziemann hushed up the case of a priest who had admitted stealing money from a church and had been accused by 4 men of sexually accosting them.

    Ziemann acknowledged hearing about the 1996 sexual misconduct allegations but defended his treatment of Fr. Jorge Hume, 41. He contends full disclosure of such sensitive matters is impossible because of a need to follow church guidelines requiring him to consult with all parties as well as his senior advisers before acting.

    Some of those involved – a nun, Latino community leaders and Ukiah's former police chief – all raised questions about the bishop's refusal to openly discuss Hume. The collection plate theft and allegations of sexual impropriety happened more than 2 years ago but resurfaced recently after Sr. Jane Kelly, a nun at the parish for 20 years, released a series of letters condemning Ziemann for transferring Hume instead of publicly prosecuting him for theft. Ziemann also enlisted the silence of Ukiah's longtime police chief in the theft of what parish leaders say was at least $10,000.

    Ziemann said Hume deserved "a second chance," and returned him to work in Feb. 1998 in Napa. Hume has been suspended as the result of allegations by a 19-year-old Napa man, who told diocesan representatives that Hume had sexually groped him soon after the priest came to the parish.

    Especially troubling to some members of the church's Latino community was Ziemann's refusal to openly confront other allegations about Hume.

    In April 1996, five members of the region's Latino community met with the bishop. They say they turned over to Ziemann tape-recorded statements of 4 young men who alleged Hume had sexually accosted them, a month before Hume confessed to stealing what he said was only $1,200 from the weekly collection. This was 5 months after an emotional service for hundreds in which Ziemann urged healing from the church's sexual abuse scandal and promised he would openly confront charges of priestly misconduct.

    By 1996, the Santa Rosa diocese had paid more than $2 million to settle claims against 4 North Coast priests who sexually abused teen-age boys up to 20 years earlier. The victims said the hierarchy had been told about the sexual abuse but reassigned the offending priests to other parishes where they again preyed on young men.

    The alleged incidents on the Ukiah tape ranged from sexual groping to masturbation of one man while he was sleeping.
    Press Democrat, 1/27/99

    SAN FRANCISCO – In a highly unusual legal complaint to secular authorities, a priest has filed a lawsuit against his archbishop alleging that he was defamed and penalized for reporting suspected child abuse. The complaint by Fr. John Conley, 55, whose clash with his religious superiors occurred while he was serving as parochial vicar, maintains that Abp. William Levada and others in the archdiocese abused their authority and tried to discredit him. Conley, a former federal prosecutor, sued for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. An church spokesman called it "baseless" and expected it to be dismissed.

    Conley's suit is based on his Nov. 1997 discovery of a wrestling encounter, "in a darkened room," between an underage male and the boy's pastor. He reported the incident to church and law enforcement officials. Following a police investigation, the district attorney's office decided that evidence did not justify filing criminal charges. The pastor, Fr. James Aylward, publicly apologized for his "foolishness and imprudence" in engaging in conduct forbidden by diocese policy. He also told parishioners that he had "committed myself to the care and treatment of a mental health professional in order to have the benefit of his evaluation." About 6 months later, Aylward resigned from the parish. He was transferred to Mill Valley as an associate pastor.

    Shortly after the wrestling incident, Conley was put on administrative leave and remains without official assignment, living at a retreat. When Conley's situation was publicized, the archdiocese said he was disciplined not for reporting the wrestling incident but for public displays of anger, for insubordination and disrespectful behavior toward his bishop.

    Fr. Patrick Flood won a jury award of $1.75 million after he filed suit for slander against the Stockton Diocese. The award was later reduced to $100,000, and is now on appeal.
    Examiner, 1/18/99

    LOS ANGELES – A priest was arrested on allegations of sodomizing a 21-year-old Colombian man at knife-point, police said. Fr. Juan Correa, 27, of Los Angeles, was being held on $200,000 bail, a LAPD spokesman said.

    The man, whose name was not released, had apparently recently arrived in Los Angeles from Colombia and Correa befriended him, offering a place to stay. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Correa wasn't affiliated with the church. He is believed to belong to a small sect called the Old Catholic Church, which broke away from the Roman Catholic Church last century when it rejected the doctrine of papal infallibility.
    AP, 12/16/98

    SAN FRANCISCO – A minister already facing theft and arson charges was sued by 10 parishioners who allege he convinced them to take out mortgage loans for church improvements and then stole the money.

    Rev. Thomas McCall allegedly used the loan money, totaling more than $850,000, to buy real estate in San Francisco and Southern Calif., according to the lawsuit. The members of the Concord Missionary Baptist Church are seeking damages for breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

    McCall had been under investigation since last Jan., when 7 parishioners claimed the pastor convinced them and others to mortgage their homes to finance $1.1 million in church renovations.

    Records show church members raised a total of $2.9 million in equity, donations and construction loans – about $1.1 million more than was necessary for the work.

    In addition to 4 counts of grand theft for allegedly taking $2.5 million in church funds, including the $850,000 mentioned in the suit, McCall also faces an arson charge for allegedly trying to destroy financial records by setting his apartment on fire. He has been dismissed from the church and the trial was scheduled to begin Jan. 25.
    AP, 10/14/98



    BRIDGEPORT – A Superior Court judge has refused to transfer to another jurisdiction lawsuits filed by 27 people who say they were molested by priests from the Diocese of Bridgeport. Lawyers for the diocese had requested that the trials be moved from Bridgeport to New Haven, arguing fair trials would be impossible in Bridgeport because 40% of the prospective jurors would likely be practicing Catholics.

    The first trial is scheduled to begin in June. The alleged sexual assaults date back to the late 1960s, when the plaintiffs were either altar boys or members of diocesan youth organizations. 16 cases involve the now-vanished Fr. Raymond Pcolka; 4 involve Fr. Charles Carr; 5 involve the late Fr. Joseph Gorecki; and 2 involve Fr. Martin Federici.

    The suits all claim that diocesan officials knew the priests were molesting children and covered up the abuse by transferring the priests to different parishes. The diocese previously lost a $1 million lawsuit to a Wisc. man who said he was molested by also-disappeared Fr. Laurence Brett in the 1960s and has also paid more than $450,000 in settlements to people who claimed they were molested by diocesan priests.
    AP, 2/3/99

    BRIDGEPORT – A judge issued an order for a priest accused of molesting more than a dozen children be taken into custody. But the deputy sheriffs will have to find Fr. Raymond Pcolka, 55, first.

    Attorneys who represent 14 of the 16 people who claim they were abused by Pcolka asked the judge to issue the order after the priest did not show up for a court-ordered deposition. The Diocese of Bridgeport's lawyer told the judge his office does not represent Pcolka and had no objection to the order, known as a capias – the civil law equivalent of an arrest warrant.

    Pcolka's lawyer quit the case in Oct. and the priest apparently has not hired a new lawyer, even though the diocese loaned Pcolka $25,000 already and were willing to loan him another $90,000. He is accused in lawsuits of sexually assaulting children from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. At a deposition in 1995, Pcolka refused to answer over 100 questions, citing his right against self-incrimination. The only question he did answer was to admit that he believed having a homosexual relationship does not violate the requirement of celibacy.

    He is not the first Bridgeport priest to disappear: Fr. Laurence Brett vanished several years ago after allegations arose that he had molested children in the 1960s.
    Connecticut Post, AP, 1/20/99

    DANBURY – A former priest has been defrocked by the Episcopal Church for allegedly offering oral sex to a 13-year-old boy as a "confirmation gift." Fr. Bruce Jacques was removed as a priest from the Diocese of Connecticut after he unsuccessfully appealed a similar decision made by a lower church court, the diocese announced. The embattled pastor, who denied the boy's accusations, resigned from his parish in Feb. 1995, after the boy's family went public.

    Jacques had been pastor for more than 10 years in 1984, when church officials reviewed the accusation and ruled that he could remain at the church if he received counseling. But the boy's family objected. He sued the family in 1995, and the boy's parents filed a countersuit. Both suits were withdrawn after a settlement in 1997. No criminal charges were filed against Jacques.

    In Sept. 1997, the diocese ecclesiastical court found Jacques in violation of his ordination vows and "conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy." He unsuccessfully appealed that decision.
    AP, 11/10/98



    WASHINGTON – Pope John Paul II has approved a 10-year extension of US modifications in church law making it easier for bishops to impose penalties on clerics who have sexually abused a minor. Penalties may include laicization, which means returning an ordained person to the lay state and taking away all clerical rights and privileges.

    The pope originally approved the changes for five years, beginning April 25, 1994. With that period about to expire, Bp. Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, president of the NCCB, wrote to Rome following the bishops' Nov. meeting to ask for an extension.
    Catholic News Service, 1/4/99

    WASHINGTON — A Baptist minister in Texas who had sex with two women while counseling them about their marriages lost his appeal to the Supreme Court. He now must pay each one $115,000.

    The court, without comment, turned away Rev. Shelby Baucum's argument that a federal jury violated his religious freedom by deciding he had committed malpractice and breached his fiduciary duties. Baucum had sexual relationships with two women who were church members and employees in 1991. One woman was fired from her job as the church receptionist and the other lost her job as his administrative secretary when they disclosed the relationships. Baucum was asked to resign, which he did.

    The women then sued him in federal court, and each won awards of $30,000 in compensatory damages and $85,000 in punitive damages. Baucum appealed, contending the jury had punished him for what he said was a mixture of secular and spiritual counseling — the equivalent of "clergy malpractice."

    But in upholding the awards, the Court of Appeals ruled that the religious-freedom difficulties posed by such a finding were not present in Baucum's case. The appeals court ruling added: "The First Amendment does not categorically insulate religious relationships from judicial scrutiny, for to do so would necessarily extend constitutional protection to the secular components of these relationships É To hold otherwise would impermissibly place a religious leader in a preferred position in our society."
    AP, 10/5/98



    ST. PETERSBURG – A family is suing the Episcopalian Diocese of Southwest Florida and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Punta Gorda, charging a deceased assistant priest molested their son.

    According to a civil suit, Fr. Greydon Copeland "exploited the power of his position ... to perform lewd and lascivious, homosexual acts" on the boy, now an adult, while he went to the church there from 1985 to 1989. The boy was a minor at the time.

    The suit alleges Copeland told the boy that if he told anyone about the molestations, his family would be humiliated and harmed, and the community would ostracize him. The boy's father was studying to become a Episcopal priest at the time. The boy apparently made the allegations after Copeland was investigated by the church on charges he molested another minor while serving at another parish.

    The suit claims Copeland did not deny the allegations when confronted by church officials in May 1994 and that he committed suicide immediately afterwards.

    Bp. Rogers Harris and Rector Vincent Scotto of the parish are also named as defendants in the suit. Scotto said he remembered that Copeland was questioned by Harris and another bishop about the incident, and that Copeland committed suicide, but did not know the details of the alleged molestations.

    Copeland did perform some services but did not perform children's Sunday School services or have contact with the church's youth other than the families with whom he was directly involved, he said.

    The family seeks a jury trial and monetary damages against the defendants on 13 charges, including negligent hiring and supervision, fraud and negligent infliction of emotional distress on all of the family members. The unidentified family contends the son is "severely and permanently injured" by the charged molestations. He continues to incur expenses for medical, psychiatric and psychological treatment, therapy and counseling.
    Sun-Herald, 2/17/99

    WEST PALM BEACH – Instead of being honored, the teacher of the year at Palm Beach Community College resigned after officials learned that he'd had lied on his job application about being a convicted child molester.

    Walter Weerts, 63, a former priest, was sentenced to six years in an Ill. state prison in 1986 after pleading guilty to three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse on boys ages 12 to 16. Weerts, who taught horticulture, could not be reached for comment and college officials say they think he's left the state.

    The sheriff's office confirmed it also is investigating Weerts after receiving a complaint that a young boy who was staying in Weerts' home might have been abused. However, charges are unlikely because an interview with the boy, who has gone home to New Mex., turned up no evidence of crime.

    Charges against Weerts were filed in Sept. 1985 in Liberty, Ill., where he had served as a priest for five years. In March 1986 he pleaded guilty to 3 sexual abuse charges as part of a deal with prosecutors, court records show. He served 3 years of his six- year sentence at a minimum security facility. A former State Attorney said he submitted a 225-page report prepared by investigators that concluded Weerts had been sexually involved with boys for as long as 18 years and that church officials knew of his problem but repeatedly reassigned him to other parishes.
    AP, 2/4/99

    BOYNTON BEACH – Two brothers who say they were abused by a priest in the 1960s have settled their lawsuits against the Roman Catholic Church. The two were among five men who have said Fr. Rocco D'Angelo sexually assaulted them.

    The Archdiocese in Miami has admitted in court papers to failing to keep its promise to the boys' parents in the 1960s to keep D'Angelo away from children. Instead, D'Angelo was moved to the Tampa area, where he worked more than 2 decades. Lawsuits there accuse D'Angelo, now 76, of abusing at least 4 more boys, one as recently as 1987.

    The brothers filed their lawsuit last March, each seeking more than $15,000 from D'Angelo and more than $15,000 from former Palm Beach Bp. J. Keith Symons and Miami Abp. John Favalora in their roles as church leaders.

    The lawsuits against D'Angelo have not been settled. The other cases were settled Dec. 11, according to court records. D'Angelo's current whereabouts are not known. Lawyers have said that they believe he is either in a psychiatric hospital in Maryland or back in the Tampa area.

    Symons stepped down June 1 after admitting he had sexually molested five boys more than three decades ago. He became the highest ranking American Catholic cleric to be forced out for molesting minors.
    AP, 1/6/99

    APOPKA – A minister who molested third-graders at his church school couldn't promise that he wouldn't molest again, and so was sentenced to prison for 7 years and 4 months, followed by 10 years of probation. The judge acknowledged the remorse of David Joe Rich, 55, and that he took responsibility for his crimes, but said she wanted to ensure he would not harm anyone again.

    Rich, former pastor of Springs Community Baptist Church, pleaded guilty to molesting 2 girls and trying to molest a third during the 1995-96 school year. He fondled the girls, ages 8 and 9, at his desk while other students were in the classroom, said the prosecutor. The desk concealed the probing.

    Rich apologized and made no excuses for his conduct but could not explain it. With God's help and counseling, he said, he hoped never to molest again. But he said he would be foolish to make a "100 percent" guarantee. He had resigned when confronted about the abuse 2 years after it ended.

    While on probation, Rich must get counseling. He cannot be alone with children younger than 18 or live near a school or other place where children visit. The judge told Rich he should bring his ministry to prison. "There are people in prison who could use your services," she said.
    Orlando Sentinel, 12/4/1998

    WEST PALM BEACH – A former pastor who claimed he was testing a girl's virginity was convicted of sexually molesting the teen-ager. Rev. Joseph Millien, 51, was found guilty of felony sexual activity with the 17-year-old member of the Full Gospel Assembly Church, but acquitted of a sexual battery charge. He denied having any other sexual contact with the girl. The judge revoked Millien's bond and ordered him to jail until sentencing scheduled a few weeks later. Under sentencing guidelines, he could get 6 to 12 years in prison as a first-time offender.
    AP, 10/28/98



    CHICAGO – A former pastor, arrested on charges of sexual assault and abuse of a teenage girl in DuPage County, faces similar charges involving the same 16-year-old in Will County.

    Bond was set at $250,000 in Circuit Court for Scott Shelby, 30, of Bridgeview. Shelby was charged with sexually assaulting and abusing a young female parishioner at a motel last winter.

    Shelby had been a minister at the Calvary Tabernacle Church. He is charged with one count of criminal sexual assault and one count of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in DuPage County for allegedly taking the teen to motels over a six-month period in 1997 and 1998. Shelby, who left his post when church members and police began investigating his activities, is being held in county jail on $250,000 bond.

    A Will County assistant state's attorney will be assigned to help DuPage prosecutors in their prosecution of the case in DuPage County Circuit Court and vice versa.
    Tribune, 1/15/99

    CHICAGO – Two women say they were molested when they were young girls by a brother formerly with the Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

    Attorneys for Br. Richard Kuhl, 72, filed an affidavit indicating their intent to appeal to the Illi. Supreme Court a ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court reinstating a civil lawsuit brought against Kuhl by the women. Kuhl has not been charged with a crime. Since the civil allegations of sexual molestation were leveled against him, he has been transferred to a mission in Center Valley, Pa.

    The two women, now 34 and 32, filed separate lawsuits against Kuhl in 1996, alleging that he molested them and caused them psychological damage. The younger woman alleged that Kuhl molested her on and off from the time she was 10 until she was 15. The other alleged her abuse occurred over a seven-year period beginning when she was 5.

    A judge dismissed the lawsuits in 1997, saying the women's claims had expired under the statute of limitations. But in a ruling issued last month, the appellate court reinstated their cases,ruling a 1991 law that extended the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases makes the women's lawsuit timely. In June, the court reinstated another case against Kuhl brought by yet another woman, for similar reasons.
    Tribune, 1/15/99



    BATON ROUGE – A local minister was booked into jail in connection with a sex sting, records show.

    According to an arrest warrant, Rev. Alfred Prellop, 61, was arrested after allegedly soliciting sex from an undercover Sheriff's Office deputy, but was not booked that day because the jail was full. Prellop, a minister at Trinity Lutheran Church for the last 28 years, said he would not comment publicly on his arrest. More than a dozen other men were arrested in the three-day sting operation.



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