Judge: Divulge Victims' IDs
Diocese Sex Case Stipulated Anonymity, Chesley Argues
By Jim Hannah
July 27, 2006
BURLINGTON - The names of victims collecting money in the $84 million sex abuse settlement with the Covington Diocese may be turned over to authorities.
The victims' attorneys plan to argue in court today that their clients were promised anonymity when they joined the nation's only class-action suit against a Roman Catholic Diocese.
The legal wrangling comes after Senior Judge John Potter ordered the names to be turned over to prosecutors.
Kentucky law requires sex-abuse allegations be forwarded to police, Potter wrote in the order.
The judge wants the prosecutors to know the type of abuse, when it occurred and the name of the suspected abuser, but it's turning over victims' names that has sparked the court battle.
Porter's order requires the information be kept confidential except as necessary to investigate.
Stan Chesley, lead attorney for the victims in the class-action suit, is fighting the order.
At 10 a.m. today in Boone Circuit Court, he plans to call a psychiatrist to provide testimony on why Potter should tear up his order.
The psychiatrist, Dr. Rena Kay, has treated many of the victims abused by Covington diocesan employees.
"It took a tremendous effort for most of these victims to place their trust in the legal system to help right the wrong that was done to them," Kay wrote in court filings.
"Based on my years of experience in treating such victims, it is my opinion that the Court's order will be viewed by them as a final betrayal of their trust by the Court," Kay wrote.
Chesley says in a motion that Potter doesn't have the power to make such an order.
He said plaintiffs in the class have been promised confidentiality and the release of their names would cause them psychiatric harm.
Chesley states that the law requiring all child sex-abuse cases to be reported to authorities does not apply in this case. He states the law does not apply to adults who come forward reporting that they were abused as a child.
"This case is a civil case," Chesley wrote. "It is not a criminal prosecution."
Chesley said 141 newspaper, 213 television and 523 radio advertisements seeking victims all promised anonymity to the abused.
About 350 people have begun the steps of submitting a claim. An administrator of the $84 million fund will award money based on the level of abuse.
Each settlement will range from $5,000 to $1 million depending on the seriousness.
Commonwealth's Attorney Linda Tally Smith, who serves Boone and Gallatin counties, said people shouldn't be worried prosecutors would release the names of victims.
"I can think of no one in the legal system more interested in seeing victims through the criminal justice system anonymously and unscathed than publicly elected prosecutors," she said. "We make every effort to ensure the privacy of victims of criminal cases, especially those who are victims of heinous sexual offenses."
Chesley wrote the diocese has been self-reporting sex abuse claims for years. Commonwealth's attorneys across Northern Kentucky confirmed Wednesday that they receive regular updates of any sex-abuse allegations.
Kenton County Commonwealth's Attorney Bill Crockett said it was agreed in 2002 that the diocese provide prosecutors with the exact location, time frame and names of the victim and alleged perpetrator.
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