Black Collar CrimesClergy Crimes

June –
September 1998

M – W

  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia



    PORTLAND — Cheverus High School has suspended a longtime teacher who was accused by a former student of sexually assaulting him in 1984 and 1985. Fr. James Talbot, 60, was named in a civil lawsuit by a man, now 30. The suit alleges that the English teacher and soccer coach abused him as an 18-year-old on numerous occasions, often on school property, using alcohol and intimidation.

    The suit names Talbot, the high school, the Jesuit Order and the Diocese of Portland as defendants. The president of Cheverus said Talbot was suspended from the school in June, as soon as school officials became aware of the allegations. Talbot is being evaluated for treatment, a process overseen by the Provincial Society of Jesus in Boston, the administrative offices for the Jesuits. He could not be reached for comment.

    No criminal charges have been filed against Talbot and police say no investigation is under way. The six-year statute of limitations has expired, but school officials said the allegations were serious enough to warrant the suspension. The suit contends that the teen reported the abuse to another teacher, but that no action was ever taken. (8/9)



    CHARLESTOWN — A man who charges he was repeatedly molested by a priest as a child has sued the Archdiocese of Boston because it allegedly allowed the priest to train him and other altar boys — even though they knew he had a history of child sexual abuse.

    The man, 21, filed the suit with his mother. The suit alleges that former priest Robert M. Burns molested him in a church and its rectory between 1986 and 1991. Burns, who is no longer a priest, is now serving time in New Hampshire state prison on an unspecified charge, according to the lawsuit. Burns was a parish priest in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1981 when the church first discovered he was molesting children. He was sent to the House of Affirmation in Worcester for treatment and counseling. When he returned, according to the suit, he continued molesting children. Between 1982 and 1985 Youngstown Bp. James Malone and Cardinal Humberto Medeiros reassigned Burns to Boston, despite Malone's purportedly warning Medeiros that Burns could still harm children.

    The lawsuit states that Burns continued to molest children. In 1986, he was transferred to Charlestown, the suit alleges, where the plaintiff, then 10 years old, had just begun training as an altar boy. Over the next 5 years Burns repeatedly forced him to perform "non-consensual sexual acts."

    The current pastor, Fr. James Canniff, gave Burns the assignment, according to the lawsuit. Canniff is a codefendant in the lawsuit along with the archdiocese, Burns, Cardinal Bernard Law, Malone, and the Youngstown diocese.

    The assaults stopped when Burns apparently again caught the attention of the church. He was sent to St. Luke's Institute in Maryland for treatment as a pedophile; the institute urged that Burns undergo extensive tests because of the "depth of his impairment," but Burns rejected the recommendation. According to the lawsuit, Burns was not allowed to return to the parish and the archdiocese did not disclose his history of abusing children to shield itself from lawsuits.
    (9/11 Boston Globe)

    BOSTON — A man has sued the Boston Archdiocese and a former priest, alleging that he was sexually abused more than 30 years ago when he was an altar boy at a Bradford church.

    The man filed the suit against the archdiocese and Paul David White. The abuse allegedly occurred over several years at beginning in 1964. White, identified in the lawsuit as a Latin teacher at Haverhill High School, could not be reached for comment.
    (6/11 Boston Globe)



    NEW BUFFALO — Fr. Thomas DeVita, 51, surprised his parishioners by confessing at three Sunday morning Masses in a row to sexual misconduct with a 16-year-old altar boy at a summer camp in New York state 20 years ago. The admission ended months of rumors that had culminated in anonymous letters and packets of newspaper clippings circulating throughout the community.

    In his admission, DeVita said it had happened at his first parish assignment and that "the behavior did not repeat itself with anyone of either gender since that time." He said that even though he had asked for and received the teen's forgiveness, one of the boy's relative did not forgive him. As a result, he said, he was removed from one assignment in New York state, denied another, and dismissed from two Florida dioceses.

    He said later that he had received a standing ovation at each Mass. He was supported by Bp. James Murray, who gave the sermon at each Mass preceding DeVita's statement.

    Despite the show of support, at least 20 families are reported as seeking other parishes. A few said they had left the Catholic Church completely, frustrated by church policy. Almost none of the parishioners interviewed was willing to be identified, fearing retaliation for expressing their opinions.
    (8/27 Harbor Country News)



    OMAHA — A former altar boy at has sued the Omaha Archdiocese and Fr. Daniel Herek, a priest convicted recently of fondling a boy in the same parish.

    The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an unidentified adult male. The lawsuit alleges that Herek molested the man but does not indicate whether he is the youth in the criminal case. It alleges that after gaining his trust, Herek sexually assaulted, molested and exploited him many times between 1992 and 1997. The complaint also accuses the church of negligence.

    Archdiocesan officials have said they received no complaints about Herek that warranted removing him from contact with children. Yet Herek pleaded no contest to charges he sexually assaulted a then 14-year-old boy from the same parish and manufactured and possessed child pornography. He is waiting to be sentenced.

    A videotape and two photographs of naked boys were found by a cleaning woman in the rectory in May 1997.

    The lawsuit says Herek engaged boys in sexual contact or tried to do so at 9 churches. At some of the churches the priest allegedly gave boys alcohol. It claims the archdiocese knew Herek possessed pornographic magazines and was seen in the presence of partially clothed young boys, that Herek had fondled boys and had an alcohol problem.

    Herek has been a priest in the archdiocese for 26 years, serving in 11 parishes in Omaha and other Nebraska communities. Omaha Archbishop Elden Curtiss said Herek will never again serve as a priest.

    The Omaha World-Herald reported that complaints about Herek dated back to the 1970s, including at least half a dozen occasions in which people reported concerns to the archdiocese.

    An archdiocesan spokesman said nothing of that nature was in Herek's personal file.
    (9/2 Associated Press)



    DOVER — Following four days of testimony, Fr. Roger Fortier was convicted of sexual abuse in two cases. He faces sentencing in October on 16 counts of felonious sexual assault involving a 14-year-old boy and an 18-year-old boy and still faces trial involving a third youth.

    Prosecutors said he abused one victim from May 1994 to September 1995 and molested the other from May to October 1997. Fortier has denied the charges.

    Both the prosecution and defense rested after 3 days of testimony, but decided to call the younger victim back to the stand. The boy previously testified the devil made him commit several violent and bizarre acts, including killing a neighbor's ducks.

    But after his 17-year-old brother testified that he actually committed the acts, the younger boy said he made up the idea about the devil after a therapist suggested that was the cause of his problems.

    The boy's psychiatrist testified the teen-ager has shown no symptoms of psychosis since 1995. But Fortier's lawyer argued the boy was not credible because he is schizophrenic and wasn't taking medication when the alleged assaults took place.

    The younger boy testified the alleged abuse began when he accepted Fortier's invitations to spend weekends at the church rectory. Fortier's other accuser said the priest molested him starting in January 1994, when he was 14 years old. He said Fortier showed him pornographic films, then rubbed his crotch and performed oral sex on him.

    Earlier this month, Fortier was indicted on charges of making a pass at another 14-year-old boy after giving him alcohol and showing him a pornographic video. Prosecutors said there will be a separate trial on those charges.
    (8/3 Associated Press)



    LAS CRUCES — As much as $150,000 might have been skimmed from the collection plate of the cathedral of this diocese over the last 2 1/2 years, a diocesan official said.

    Las Cruces police said an investigation was under way, and police were awaiting completion of the church's audit. Fr. Tom Beggane, the pastor for the last 8 years and a 20-year priest has taken a sabbatical, and he and 3 other parish officials have hired attorneys.

    Church officials estimated that at least $1,000 in large bills was being taken from weekly Sunday Mass collections at the cathedral. Bp. Ricardo Ramirez was to issue a directive to all diocese churches to follow diocesan regulations recommending collections be deposited on Sunday, preferably after each Mass.

    The investigation began after $500 was stolen from a vault in the cathedral's rectory on Holy Thursday, but the other donations apparently were stolen from a safe in the cathedral's sacristy.
    (8/19 Albuquerque Journal)



    SYRACUSE — A woman who claimed her son was abused as a child by a priest has decided against going to court and, instead, has agreed to a settlement.

    According to the attorney for the family, the settlement includes a $150,000 payment by the Diocese of Syracuse, but more importantly a letter of apology from the church. The settlement allows the church to avoid a $16 million civil lawsuit, scheduled to begin in state Supreme Court.

    Both cases against Fr. Daniel W. Casey Jr. had been on the verge of being settled just before a scheduled trial in July, but the one family balked at signing a settlement because the agreement said the priest and church had done nothing wrong. The other family apparently did not want to go to court and accepted a cash deal reportedly worth about $325,000, according to their lawyer.

    The twin lawsuits, which originally were filed separately but were scheduled to be tried together, accused Casey of sexually abusing two brothers, then ages 10 and 12, in December 1987 in a shower room at the State University of New York at Oswego, and of molesting an 11-year-old boy between August 1988 and January 1989. The boys claimed that Casey touched and kissed them, disrobed and had them remove their clothes in the shower room.
    (8/14 Associated Press)

    NEW YORK CITY — A Bronx man, charging he was sexually harassed as a youth by a priest 6 years ago, has filed a $110 million sexual abuse and malpractice suit against the Archdiocese of New York.

    The man, now 23, alleges he was assaulted and sexually molested by Fr. Henry Mills after going to him for counseling in 1992. Mills, who could not be reached for comment, was an assistant pastor in the Bronx in 1992 when the incidents allegedly occurred. The suit also charges that the archdiocese engaged in a coverup and reneged on a promise to provide psychological help.

    The man said Mills gave him liquor, engaged in sex acts and kept him in line by threatening to reveal "confidential information that he learned during counseling."

    In court papers, the archdiocese denied the allegations, but said that if anything occurred, it was "consensual sex." (7/9)



    BOONE — A long-standing pastor and high school teacher accused of raping a 15-year-old student two years ago was sentenced to spend up to two years in prison as part of a plea arrangement.

    Rev. Larry Edward Elliott, 50, pleaded guilty to 3 counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor. He entered his plea just before the jury was to be selected for his trial. A judge ordered Elliott to serve time for one of the 3 counts, the others suspended and the district attorney dropped 3 other charges of statutory rape.

    Elliott, a Baptist pastor for 20 years, resigned after the accusations surfaced. He had worked as a substitute math teacher at the school where he met his victim.
    (9/15 Watauga Democrat)


    RALEIGH —A priest who had a blood-alcohol content of 0.24 percent — 3 times the legal limit — faces charges of driving while impaired and hit-and-run after a car accident. Fr. James Michael Turner, 46, was arrested after residents called police late one Sunday to report a car had hit a parked car, two lamp posts, shrubs and a fence in one block, said a police spokesman.

    Turner wasn't injured and reported the accident to diocesan officials, who are conducting their own investigation. A police report said the priest's vehicle struck a car parked in the street,reversed and hit the car again before driving into a yard where two lightposts and a fence were hit.

    Victoria Williams said her daughter's car was hit in the accident, which also caused about $500 worth of damage to the yard. "I've never seen anything like it. He kept hitting the back of her car. He kept hitting and reversing and hitting it again," she said. (6/24)



    BISMARCK — The State Supreme Court has left the door open for a possible theft prosecution of a priest. But its ruling appeared to give Fargo Bishop James Sullivan the final say on whether the matter will go ahead.

    The court's unusual split ruling revived theft allegations against Fr. Leonard Burckhard, who has been accused of stealing almost $190,000 in church funds to spend on baseball memorabilia, fishing excursions and forays into the stock market. Burckhard was dismissed in October 1996 as pastor after an audit uncovered financial irregularities. He had served as parish priest for 7 years.

    A district judge threw out a felony theft charge against Burckhard, ruling the state lacked jurisdiction and that prosecuting the case would mean an intrusion into religious matters. In the most recent decision, two of the Supreme Court's 5 justices said Burckhard could be prosecuted without violating the constitutional separation of church and state. Two other justices questioned whether that was possible.
    (6/4 Associated Press)



    MEDFORD — A priest must undergo treatment for sexual disorders as part of his sentence in a rape case. Fr. Michael D. Hughes, 71, pleaded no contest to charges he raped two patients at the Medford Nursing Center in December. Hughes offered no explanation for his actions. The judge followed a plea bargain by giving Hughes a 15-year suspended sentence while requiring at least one year of treatment for sexual disorders. He also ordered Hughes to pay about $1,530 in court costs and other expenses.

    Hughes was a pastor in Medford for 5 years. He was removed from his ministerial assignment on the day he was charged with one count of first-degree rape by instrumentation and one count of second-degree rape by instrumentation. He suffered a stroke last year, and was hospitalized recently for other medical problems. The victims were both elderly women. One was blind and unable to speak. One has since died.
    (6/9 Associated Press)

    CHANDLER — A former Lincoln County judge was to go on trial for allegedly molesting a 12-year-old girl. Robert Foster, 73, a District County Judge for 34 years was charged in May last year with sexually abusing a girl who was an altar server at a Catholic Church where he was a deacon. Foster resigned his 18-year-post with the church after being arrested. Police say he was baby-sitting the girl along with her 9-year- old sister when the alleged abuse occurred. Foster was free on bail. (6/8)



    PITTSBURGH — A priest suspected of embezzling $1.3 million from church donations to pay for gambling junkets and fancy cars may have been murdered in his nursing home, police said.

    A nurse responding to an alarm in the room of Fr. Walter Benz, 72, found the priest's intravenous line and oxygen tube had been removed. A man and a woman were in the room, and the man was holding Benz's hand, police said. Medical personnel tried unsuccessfully to revive Benz, and the unidentified couple slipped out without being questioned. They remained at large at last report.

    "This is a homicide investigation, but we don't know that this is a homicide" the spokesman said. "It could very well be a coincidence." The coroner's office had not yet determined Benz's cause of death at the time of the report.

    Benz, who suffered from leukemia, was accused of stealing over $1,000 a week over a 26-year period from two churches to finance gambling trips, lavish gifts and luxury cars. He was never formally charged because authorities who went to his sickbed for an arraignment a month previously found him unconscious with a brain virus. However, he had confessed to police and another priest, according to an affidavit.

    In August, police announced their investigation of Benz and his former church secretary, Mary Anne Albaugh, 51. The two were living together and allegedly used the money for trips to Atlantic City. Police seized antiques, a collection of 27 handguns, gold coins and other items — including a 2-foot Buddha statue — from the home they shared. Albaugh has been charged with theft and conspiracy. Benz, who retired in July, would have faced the same charges. The police said authorities have no reason to suspect Albaugh was responsible for Benz's death.

    Because Benz was officially a retired priest, he was to have a funeral conducted by Bp. Donald Wuerl, the diocese spokesman said.
    (9/8 Associated Press)

    PITTSBURGH — The relatives of a member of a parish church have accused the Pittsburgh Diocese and other church organizations of doing nothing to stop a priest from improperly persuading her to give him $1.9 million.

    The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the nieces and nephews of Violet Boquet, who died 3 years ago at age 87. The plaintiffs say that Fr. Patrick Cooke used "undue influence" to get assets including US Treasury notes.

    The defendants in the case include the Congregation of the Holy Ghost and the Diocese of Pittsburgh. A spokesman for the diocese had no comment beyond saying said church officials had been aware of the accusations before the lawsuit was filed.

    Cooke, however, is not a defendant. He now runs a church in Florida but was unavailable for comment. He is the sole beneficiary of the remaining $150,700 of Boquet's estate. The distribution of that money is separately being challenged by the nieces and nephews.

    Before she died, Boquet met Cooke when she went to her childhood parish to arrange a Catholic funeral because she was dying of cancer, her relatives say. He was the priest there at the time. The lawsuit said she gave him a gold watch, the Treasury bills, jewelry and at least $180,000 in checks. The relatives allege that Cooke used the money to buy a townhouse near a Florida golf course. The Holy Ghost is a 146-year-old order that ran church in suburban Pittsburgh until 1997.

    The relatives contend that senior church officials should have been aware that Cooke was getting Boquet's money. The lawsuit said he had been involved in "financial improprieties" when he worked as an aide to Duquesne University's president.
    (9/5 Associated Press)



    PROVIDENCE — Fr. Robert A. Allaire, 61 and sickly, has been arraigned on 3 felony counts of embezzling approximately $90,000 from his parishioners in Wakefield.

    He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was freed on bond. The judge gave him a waiver to enable Allaire, who suffers from emphysema and other ailments, to return to the undisclosed out-of-state medical facility where he has lived since January 1997.

    A state grand jury indicted Allaire for allegedly stealing from the collection plate over a two year-period. State police began their investigation after being told of the parish's financial problems by the Diocese of Providence. For a time, the diocese conducted what it called a "canonical inquiry" into the situation, but it was suspended earlier this year when the state police launched its own investigation.
    (6/4 Associated Press)



    FORT WORTH — A priest whose parishioners were reminded of his embezzlement conviction is vowing to stay on the job, while another, who has left the diocese, is the subject of a church investigation.

    Fr. Philip Magaldi, associate pastor in a parish northeast of Fort Worth, received a standing ovation from parishioners after saying news reports would not force him to leave his parish church.

    In a letter distributed Sunday Mass at every church in the 28-county Fort Worth Diocese, Bp. Joseph Delaney wrote that Magaldi had been honest about the pending embezzlement charge in 1990 when he was hired from the diocese in Providence, RI.. Magaldi is not allowed to handle any finances for the church, but he has never been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior.

    Although both Magaldi and Fr. Thomas Teczar had been suspended in other dioceses, Delaney hired them anyway.

    Delaney wrote parishioners that he would not have accepted Teczar had he been fully informed about the priest's past. Teczar, who left the Fort Worth diocese in 1993, is now in Massachusetts where he is no longer serving as a priest. He faces a civil lawsuit filed in 1996 by a 44-year-old Massachusetts man who says Teczar sexually abused him 27 years ago. His bishop in Massachusetts wrote some dioceses about other allegations of sexual misconduct against Teczar.
    (8/18 Associated Press)

    DALLAS — A priest whose controversial remarks about a highly-publicized sexual abuse case led to his resignation from a Dallas church has been assigned to a temporary post in Arkansas.

    Msgr. Robert Rehkemper, who resigned as pastor in Dallas a year ago, has been assigned administrator of a church in Hope, Ark. He will temporarily head the church in President Clinton's hometown while its pastor recovers from surgery, officials said.

    After leaving his last parish, Rehkemper spent about 6 months studying in Rome before returning to the Dallas area in retirement, a Dallas diocese spokesman said.

    "No one ever says anything about what the role of the parents was in all this," Rehkemper said in a one-hour interview during the Kos case. He also said that the plaintiffs, who were as young as 9 when the abuse began, "knew what was right and what was wrong. Anybody who reaches the age of reason shares responsibility for what they do." He resigned 10 days after his comments were published.

    Bp. Charles Grahamm said at the time he had received dozens of calls and letters protesting the remarks.
    (8/7 Associated Press)

    FORT WORTH - The Vatican has taken the rare step of returning convicted pedophile priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos, 53, to lay status — stripping him of his priesthood and barring him from any church ministry.

    The Diocese of Dallas asked the Vatican to act. The Vatican did not, however, take the step of nullifying his ordination, which would mean that Kos never was a validly ordained priest.

    Kos is serving a life sentence in prison for molesting altar boys. The scandal led to a record $119.6 million verdict against the Diocese of Dallas, the largest clergy sexual abuse award in US history, though it was later greatly reduced. In a criminal trial later, Kos was convicted of sexual assault and indecency charges for molesting four boys more than 1,350 times between 1987 and 1992.

    Kos, who pleaded guilty to some assault and indecency charges, was suspended from his priestly functions and benefits in 1993, shortly after accusations surfaced. The Vatican's action also relieves the Dallas Diocese of financial responsibility for Kos if he ever is released from prison.
    (7/9 Associated Press)

    For more information on this case, see The Kos Files.

    SAN ANTONIO — A parish pastor has been removed from his duties after he was accused of sexually assaulting an altar boy 22 years ago, the Archdiocese of San Antonio said.

    Parishioners learned of the accusation against Fr. Jose Luis Sandoval at Sunday Mass. Sandoval, has denied the allegation made by a man now 33 years old. No charge was ever filed.

    Disbelief, tears, yelling and clapping were the responses at a meeting the next night, when Msgr. Lawrence Stuebben of the archdiocese met with parishioners to discuss the accusation against Sandoval.

    At one point, the man making the accusation approached the pulpit and told the crowd in a wavering voice he had been abused. He alleges the incident took place 22 years ago when Sandoval was an associate pastor in San Antonio. The man is not a parishioner of the church.

    The archdiocese learned of the allegation on June 5, a day after Archbishop Patrick Flores announced a $4 million settlement in a civil lawsuit filed by the families of seven boys who accused Fr. Xavier Ortiz-Dietz of sexual misconduct. Ortiz-Dietz is serving a 20-year sentence after pleading no contest in 1993 to 3 sexual abuse charges involving altar servers.

    "The report indicated that the information was believable, though Fr. Sandoval denied the allegations," Stuebben told the parishioners. The archbishop requested a meeting with Sandoval June 9 after he was relieved of his duties, Stuebben said, adding that Sandoval did not show up. "Sandoval did not come to see the archbishop. In fact, he left the parish that night," he said. "We do not know where he is. He simply left the parish." A review of Sandoval's personnel file revealed a complaint was filed against him in Sabinal in 1985 involving an alleged inappropriate advance toward a teenager, Stuebben said.
    (6/23 Associated Press)



    BURLINGTON — A federal judge has thrown out three lawsuits against the Catholic diocese that alleged abuse at a Burlington orphanage that closed in 1974.

    The grounds on which the suits were dismissed — that the plaintiffs had waited too long to sue could affect about a dozen other suits still pending in state and federal courts.

    The 3 decisions mean Judge J. Garvan Murtha has dismissed all 5 cases brought by former orphans against the diocese, which ran St. Joseph's Orphanage for 120 years. More than 100 former residents of the orphanage have come forward since 1993 with stories about being beaten, locked up in closets or attics and forced to eat their own vomit. Some also said they were sexually abused by nuns, priests and staff at the orphanage, now the diocesan headquarters in Burlington.

    Church officials have questioned the veracity of the claims, but provided $5,000 payments to an estimated 60 aggrieved ex-orphans and a much larger out-of-court settlement to one former St. Joseph's resident in 1996.
    (9/24 Associated Press)

    BURLINGTON — A Greek Orthodox priest has reported to jail to begin serving a six-month sentence for fondling a 12-year-old girl, but is still claiming he's innocent. "This is no way to treat a priest," Fr. Emmanual Koveos, 62, said as he arrived at jail.

    In lengthy statements Koveos, his wife, and his son, talked about mistakes and possible improper conduct by the judge, jury, defense attorney, police and the victim and her family.
    (6/18 Associated Press)



    SEATTLE — Rev. Jeff Smith, 59, better known to his PBS cooking show fans as "The Frugal Gourmet" has agreed to settle sexual abuse lawsuits with 7 men before the cases could go to trial.

    The lawsuits accused the chef of using alcohol, intimidation, and force to obtain sex from the mid 1970s until 1992. All the men are former employees of a restaurant Smith once ran.

    No new Frugal Gourmet shows have been broadcast since the accusations surfaced in 1996.
    (7/5 USA Today)



    CHARLESTON — The state Supreme Court refused to reinstate a man lawsuit that claims he was sexually molested by an Episcopal priest when he was a boy but repressed memories of it until years later. The man claimed the memories resurfaced while under hypnosis, but in an unanimous opinion the court said the lawsuit was filed too late.

    In 1996, the man filed a suit against Fr. H. Willard White, and the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia, claiming the diocese knew White had a "proclivity for deviant sexual behavior" and did nothing about it. White and the church immediately sought to have the case dismissed because of the statute of limitations. The county circuit judge agreed and the high court upheld his ruling. White's attorney said the molestation never occurred and White was surprised by the allegations.

    White is still a minister and lives somewhere in Tennessee. He has never been charged with a crime and no one has ever made a similar allegation against him, his lawyer said.
    (6/23 Associated Press)



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