Lafayette

Aug 13, 2014 1:49 AM by Jim Hummel

Questions for DA On Priest Sex-Abuse Scandal

District Attorney Mike Harson tells KATC without victims coming forward, he can't prosecute old cases of alleged sexual-abuse by priests.
The priest sex-abuse scandal was brought back in the spotlight after a sweeping investigation by Minnesota Public Radio last month.

The Diocese of Lafayette has acknowledged "credible accusations" against 15 priests, but is refusing to release their names. "The Bishop sees no purpose in releasing their names," wrote diocese spokesman, Monsignor Richard Greene.

Msgr. Greene adds that none of those 15 priests are still in the church here, or elsewhere. Of those 15 only one, Father Gilbert Gauthe, ever faced criminal charges in Lafayette.

"Put out the 15 names," says Abbeville attorney Tony Fontana, who represented a number of priest sex-abuse victims and their families. "Start showing that you care more about protecting kids than you do about protecting the pervert priests."

Some KATC viewers have asked why authorities can't step in and demand the list of 15. We took that question to DA Mike Harson.

"No, I'm not requesting it," said Harson. "Until I have a victim with a complaint, I'm not sure what purpose it serves me."

Details of the accusations made against priests were recently uncovered in thousands of pages of evidence KATC had shipped in from a court house in Ft. Worth, Texas. Harson says those documents, from civil litigation, would have little impact, were he to launch a criminal investigation today.

"I have a hard time believing that most of that would be admissible," Harson said. "A lot of that would be considered hearsay and inadmissible."

As for the 15 priests who the diocese says have faced credible accusations, Harson says without a victim coming forward, his hands are tied in the matter.

"They've not been convicted criminally," said Harson. "Your burdens of proof may be different, I don't know if the church in their investigations are required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, we are."

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