Thursday, July 22, 2004

Priest gets 5 years' probation


Judge sets up tough terms for Kuhn, who once was principal at Elder

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

[photo]
Thomas Kuhn (left), a former Elder High principal and priest for several parishes in Southwest Ohio, faces Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Mary Katherine Huffman on Wednesday as she sentences him to five years' probation. His lawyer Roger Makley is at right.
The Enquirer/GLENN HARTONG
DAYTON, Ohio - Saying she saw no remorse, no acknowledgement that he had done anything wrong, a judge sentenced the Rev. Thomas Kuhn to spend five years on probation and pay a $10,500 fine.

Kuhn, 63, was convicted last month for providing alcohol to minors and engaging in public indecency at his home in suburban Dayton.

Probation was better than the alternative sentence - a maximum of 18 months in jail - because authorities could keep a closer eye on Kuhn and force him to seek treatment, Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Mary Katherine Huffman said.

"You just don't get this," Huffman told Kuhn, a former principal at Elder High School in Price Hill. "You impacted a huge community at Incarnation (Catholic Church in Dayton), St. Henry (Church in Dayton) and Elder (High School). You sent those communities into turmoil, yet it's all about you.

"That is a great concern to me."

Probation will be intense. Huffman ordered Kuhn to write letters of apology to each of his victims and the places where he once worked. He must participate in treatment dictated by a probation officer, attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings every day and do 500 hours of community service. He cannot go to any establishment that serves alcohol or where patrons can gamble.

He also is forbidden from having contact with anyone under the age of 21 and had his passport revoked, plus the stipulation that he may not leave the state.

Huffman ordered Kuhn to appear before her again in 60 days for an update on his progress and warned that if he didn't cooperate, she would jail him.

Kuhn, dressed in a navy blue blazer, with his shirt open at the collar, made no comment except once when he told the judge he understood his sentence. His attorneys declined to comment.

The small courtroom in downtown Dayton was filled with more than two dozen spectators, including at least one victim, some parishioners and members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and Voice of the Faithful.

"Although this is another difficult day for our local church, I pray that this sentence by the court will lead to a measure of closure and ultimately healing for the young people involved and their families and friends," the Rev. Daniel E. Pilarczyk, archbishop of Cincinnati, wrote in a statement released after the sentencing.

"I deeply regret the behavior that led to Thomas Kuhn's conviction and sentencing," he said. "I apologize for any harm that he has done to victims, to their families and friends, and to members of the Church as a whole."

Kuhn remains suspended from ministry. Under new "zero-tolerance" rules on child abuse, Kuhn could be permanently removed from ministry.

Determining what will happen to Kuhn within the church will take time, but the Archdiocese will do everything possible to move this process forward while safeguarding the rights of all parties, Pilarczyk said.

The sentencing ends a case that began about two years ago with complaints from some parents about the amount of time Kuhn spent with their children.

Prosecutors also had investigated dozens of explicit images found on Kuhn's church computers, but they were unable to identify the young men in those images and could not determine whether the material violated child-pornography laws.

At least a dozen other priests in the 19-county Archdiocese of Cincinnati have been linked to misconduct or abuse allegations during the past few years, but most of those cases involve incidents that allegedly occurred years ago. The age of the accusations has made it difficult, and often impossible, for prosecutors to pursue charges because in most cases the statute of limitations has expired.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Matt Heck has said Kuhn provided alcohol at his home to at least five children in late 2001 and early 2002. On one occasion, Heck said, Kuhn masturbated in front of a child.

The offenses occurred while Kuhn was working at St. Henry's, which he joined in 2001. He previously held positions with the archdiocese, including seven years as principal of Elder in the 1980s.

Prosecutors had asked Huffman to jail Kuhn, but said they were pleased with the sentence.

"We understand (the judge's) reasoning," Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor Teresa Hiett said. "This way he'll be over the fire for five years."

E-mail scoolidge@enquirer.com




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