Delaware at­tor­ney gen­eral con­firms clergy abuse probe


As­so­ci­ated Press

— Delaware’s Depart­ment of Jus­tice has con­firmed that it is in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial crim­i­nal con­duct by priests or other per­son­nel of the Catholic Dio­cese of Wilm­ing­ton.

Of­fi­cials said Thurs­day


that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion has fo­cused on ac­quir­ing and re­view­ing dioce­san papers for records of sex­ual abuse or other abuse.

As part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, author­i­ties is­sued a sub­poena in Septem­ber for a wide range of dioce­san records span­ning decades.

Delaware author­i­ties pre­vi­ously re­viewed some records pro­vided by the dio­cese from 2002 to 2004. They is­sued the re­cent sub­poena in light of the dis­clo­sures of clergy abuse in­ves­ti­ga­tions in other states, in­clud­ing neigh­bor­ing Penn­syl­va­nia and Mary­land.

Bob Krebs, a spokesman for the dio­cese, said in an email Thurs­day that the sub­poena asks for any records re­lated to sex­ual abuse of mi­nors dat­ing back to 1955.

“We wel­come this in­ves­ti­ga­tion and are fully co­op­er­at­ing,” Krebs said, not­ing that the dio­cese has not had a cred­i­ble re­ported in­stance of child sex­ual abuse by any­one in dioce­san or par­ish min­istry in more than 25 years.

The dio­cese, which ser ves Catholics in Delaware and the East­ern Shore of Mary­land, sought bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion in Oc­to­ber 2009 on the eve of the first in a series of tri­als sched­uled in law­suits filed by al­leged vic­tims of priest abuse.

The first cases sched­uled for trial in­volved law­suits against for­mer priest Francis DeLuca. DeLuca served as a priest for 35 years but was de­frocked in 2008 af­ter he was ar­rested in New York in 2006 and charged with re­peat­edly mo­lest­ing his grand­nephew. DeLuca was sen­tenced in 2007 to 60 days in jail. Shortly af­ter his ar­rest, the dio­cese re­leased the names of 20 priests, in­clud­ing DeLuca, against whom it had sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions child sex­ual abuse.

The dio­cese emerged from bank­ruptcy in 2011 af­ter agree­ing to fund a $77 mil­lion trust to com­pen­sate some 150 al­leged vic­tims of priest sex abuse in re­turn for the re­lease of all le­gal claims against the dio­cese, its parishes and af­fil­i­ated en­ti­ties. As part of the set­tle­ment, files of abu­sive priests, who in many cases were al­lowed to con­tinue to prey on chil­dren for years af­ter their abuse be­came known, were made pub­lic.

While Delaware’s crim­i­nal code states that pros­e­cu­tions for most felonies must be com­menced within five years, law­mak­ers ap­proved of a pro­vi­sion in 2003 al­low­ing the pros­e­cu­tion for cer­tain child sex of­fenses to be com­menced “at any time.” Prior to 2003, pros­e­cu­tions for sex­ual of­fenses could be started ei­ther be­fore the statute of lim­i­ta­tions ex­pired or, if that time had ex­pired, within two years af­ter the ini­tial dis­clo­sure of the crime to author­i­ties. The change in the law elim­i­nated the statute of lim­i­ta­tions al­to­gether.

Ear­lier this year, Delaware prose­cu­tors for the first time brought crim­i­nal child mo­lesta­tion charges against a Catholic priest. The Jan­uary in­dict­ment charged 76-year-old John A. Sarro with first-de­gree un­law­ful sex­ual in­ter­course and sec­ond-de­gree un­law­ful sex­ual con­tact.

Sarro was ac­cused of fondling a pre-teen girl some­time be­tween Septem­ber 1991 and Au­gust 1992 by touch­ing her breasts. Prose­cu­tors al­lege he later had oral sex with the girl be­tween July 1993 and July 1994.

Sarro, who was among the priests whose names were dis­closed by the dio­cese in 2006, died in July at a nurs­ing home while await­ing trial.


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