Church wants sex-abuse investigation data - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Church wants sex-abuse investigation data

CLEVELAND (AP) - The Cleveland Roman Catholic Diocese says it wants any relevant information from a grand jury probe of alleged clergy sexual abuse of children, or says witnesses can turn over evidence.

At issue is whether more than 50,000 pieces of evidence from a now-closed grand jury investigation will be released publicly. The prosecutor first supported release, but has changed his position.

Diocese spokesman Robert Tayek said Thursday that the prosecutor is aware the diocese would want to receive information on abuse allegations involving clergy still in public ministry or on administrative leave.

"In addition, because witnesses are not themselves bound to secrecy in such matters, the prosecutor can urge those witnesses independently to provide the diocese with all relevant information," he said.

But he said the diocese continues to oppose public dissemination to the media of the information gathered through the grand jury process.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, who directed a grand jury investigation, recently changed his position and asked Common Pleas Judge Brian Corrigan to keep investigative documents secret.

"It's very disturbing," David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Thursday. "Thousands of taxpayers' dollars have been spent on this. Taxpayers deserve to learn what was uncovered and to have their children protected."

Clohessy is national director of SNAP, a 50-chapter group based in Chicago that provides a place for victims to disclose sexual abuse.

He said future criminal investigations will be hampered if the investigative records are kept secret.

"Any victim or witness would have to ask, 'Why put myself through this trauma?' when little if anything happens as an end result," Clohessy said.

The investigation led to indictments against one priest and six church employees. Allegations against 145 priests were reviewed, but some cases were too old to pursue under the statute of limitations.

A decision by Corrigan on whether the investigative records should be released isn't expected for several months.

Assistant prosecutors Robert Coury and Timothy Miller said the prosecutor's office reversed its position after reassessing Ohio's law barring public disclosure of grand jury investigative materials.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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