Judge Orders Attorneys to Hand over Names of Sex Abuse Victims
By Brett Barrouquere
The Associated Press, carried in Kentucky.com
July 27, 2006
BURLINGTON, Ky. — Names of sexual abuse victims involved in a class-action lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington will have to be turned over to prosecutors, a judge said Thursday.
Judge John Potter, after a contentious two-hour hearing in Boone County Circuit Court, said he would let his order to disclose the names stand despite the objections of attorneys.
The issue of turning over the identities of victims arose earlier this month when Potter, on his own, ordered attorneys to turn over to prosecutors the identities of more than 300 victims.
The judge also ordered attorneys to give prosecutors contact information and any allegations of other abuses by the priests. The names of the victims would not be made public unless necessary, Potter wrote.
Attorney Stan Chesley, who represents the plaintiffs in the $84 million class-action suit, asked Potter to stall implementing his order until it could be appealed. Potter declined before leaving the bench.
"So, the answer is, we'll go to the court of appeals," Chesley said after the hearing. "They can't command people to go to the prosecutor's office."
Prosecutors have been receiving letters from the Diocese of Covington with allegations of abuse as victims come forward, but often with the name, contact information and graphic details withheld, said Carrie Huff, the attorney for the diocese.
If prosecutors are interested, they can contact the diocese, which provides more information, Huff said. That makes the order unnecessary, Huff said.
"For most of the class, you are inflicting a cruelty on them," Huff said.
Potter said his order merely requires attorneys providing more detail and contact information without prosecutors asking.
"I'm saying give it all to them up front," Potter said.
Chesley argued Thursday that giving the names to prosecutors could result in them becoming public. He said that might lead to victims being unwilling to participate in the case.
Chesley said victims in the case were promised confidentiality and, by giving their names to prosecutors, that promise would be broken.
Dr. Rena Kay, a professor with Wright St. University's Cincinnati Center for Psychoanalysis who has treated some of the Covington victims, testified that turning names over to prosecutors would put victims in the uncomfortable position of having to tell their story and possibly have their name made public.
"Most patients have not told anyone what happened to them," Kay said. "Some of them have said confidentiality was the reason they came forward."
Boone County Commonwealth's Attorney Linda Talley Smith said her office has pursued each complaint forwarded to the office by the diocese, but has not prosecuted any yet. Smith said she wasn't sure how many cases had been sent to her office.
"In the clear majority, they were priests who had died or were so infirm there was no way it could proceed," Smith said. "There were other victims who decided not to proceed. No one has been upset about being approached."
In Louisville, prosecutors pursued only the cases where the victims went to law enforcement, said Steve Tedder, spokesman for the Jefferson County Commonwealth's Attorney.
Investigators did not use the civil suits to find victims nor seek their identities, Tedder said.
"The victims came forward and they were investigated from there," Tedder said.
The victims reached an $84 million settlement with the Covington Diocese in January. The settlement covers 361 victims who claim they were abused over a period of 50 years by priests and church employees in a diocese that once included 57 counties across a large swath of Kentucky.
Thomas Lambros, the former chief judge of the northern district of Ohio who is overseeing payments in the case, filed a notice with Potter on Thursday saying some awards will be made by late summer or early fall and a review of all claims should be complete by the end of the summer.
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