Prosecutors Won't File Criminal Charges in Church Sex Abuse Cases

Newsday [New Brunswick NJ]
May 20, 2003

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- No criminal charges will be filed against any of the 29 priests, monks and church employees in the Diocese of Metuchen who were accused of sexually abusing children.

The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office announced its decision Monday, ending a yearlong investigation. Church and law enforcement officials said several factors affected the decision, noting that the statute of limitations had expired in some cases, while other claims did not support criminal charges or were outside the county's jurisdiction.

Julie McClure, an assistant prosecutor who leads the county's sex crimes unit, declined to discuss specifics of any of the cases, some of which date back decades. Officials noted that some of the accused have died, while some victims and witnesses would not file charges.

The diocese, in a prepared statement, said the investigation "did not resolve the status of several priests ... who are on leave of absence as a result of allegations of abuse." The diocese, which serves 522,719 Catholics in Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset and Warren counties, negotiated an $800,000 out-of-court settlement earlier this year with 10 people who claimed they were sexually abused by five priests.

The information gathered in the investigation has been turned over to the diocese, and Bishop Paul G. Bootkoski will decide whether any of the allegations contains "a semblance of truth." If so, he must forward the case to the Vatican for a church trial.

The cases will first be reviewed by the Diocesan Review Board, but it was not known how long these reviews would take. The panel's members _ who were appointed by Bootkoski _ include clergy, lay persons, psychiatrists, law enforcement specialists and a survivor of clerical sexual abuse.

Buddy Cotton, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in New Jersey, said he was not surprised by the prosecutor's decision.

"The Middlesex prosecutors did their job under New Jersey law," Cotton said. "The problem is New Jersey law. In order for victims to have justice in the courts, New Jersey must abolish the statute of limitation for child sex abuse."


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