Thursday, October 16, 2003

Ex-Elder principal Kuhn charged in Montgomery Co.

By Janice Morse and Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DAYTON, Ohio - A former principal at Elder High School was charged Wednesday with providing alcohol to minors and engaging in public indecency at his home in suburban Dayton.

The charges against Rev. Thomas Kuhn are the result of a 17-month investigation that authorities say could lead to additional charges.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck said the investigation initially focused on the conduct of Kuhn but later expanded to include allegations involving 12 other priests and seven lay people.

Heck said many of those allegations were too old to prosecute, while others occurred outside of Montgomery County and were referred to other jurisdictions.

He said the investigation has taken so much time because his staff reviewed boxes of documents turned over by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and has interviewed dozens of witnesses and alleged victims.

A similar investigation in Hamilton County has triggered a protracted legal battle between prosecutors and the archdiocese over which church documents authorities are entitled to see.

Heck said the archdiocese cooperated in his investigation. After reviewing church records, Heck said, he found no evidence of an "intentional or malicious coverup" of abuse cases by the church.

But he said investigators did find evidence that Kuhn broke the law. The 62-year-old priest, who was suspended last year by the archdiocese, was indicted on 11 misdemeanor charges involving four boys and a girl, all 18 years old or younger.

All of the alleged offenses occurred at Kuhn's home from late 2001 to early 2002, Heck said.

Kuhn could not be reached and his attorney, Roger Makley, declined comment. Kuhn served as principal of Elder on Cincinnati's west side from 1981 to 1988, worked at a Centerville church for 12 years and moved to St. Henry's in July 2001.

"The type of activity alleged in these charges is reprehensible and I deplore it as I deplore any actions that put minors at risk," Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk said in a statement Wednesday.

Church officials have acknowledged they received complaints about Kuhn prior to his suspension last year, but they say no one ever accused him of abuse or made a specific charge. Church spokesman Dan Andriacco said those who complained were concerned about the amount of time Kuhn spent with children.

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