Saturday, September 4, 2004

Judge declares mistrial in case accusing former priest of rape, sodomy

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - A judge declared a mistrial Friday when a jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case of a former Roman Catholic priest accused of raping and sodomizing a teenage girl decades ago.

After deliberating for five hours, jurors informed Jefferson Circuit Court Judge A.C. McKay Chauvin that they were deadlocked in the case of Bruce Ewing, who was charged with rape and sodomy.

Prosecutor Carol Cobb said she was disappointed that the trial ended with a hung jury but added, "It's not over yet."

Cobb, a Jefferson County assistant commonwealth's attorney, said she would reassess the case, which could go to trial again.

"I think we put on a strong case considering this offense occurred over 25 years ago," she told reporters afterward.

Ewing's attorney, David Lambertus, declined comment.

Ewing, who also formerly worked for a city alderman and a Metro Council member after leaving the priesthood, will remain free on bond.

If convicted, Ewing could have faced up to 15 years in prison on the one count of third-degree rape and two counts of third-degree sodomy.

Ewing testified Thursday that he never had sex with the teenager. His accuser, Janet Goodner, testified a day earlier that the relationship lasted some two years in the mid-1970s and was consensual.

In closing arguments Friday, Cobb described Ewing as a young priest in the 1970s who took advantage of a girl who had a turbulent family life and was vulnerable.

"He could not resist the human and natural urges," Cobb told the jury. "He wanted a sexual relationship."

Cobb said the relationship robbed Goodner of her faith and left her guilt-ridden. Goodner claims the relationship started while Ewing was a priest at St. Vincent de Paul Church, which she attended.

Ewing left the priesthood in 1977.

Lambertus questioned why Goodner waited so many years to raise the accusations. When she came forward, Goodner's claims first were presented in a civil lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Louisville. Goodner eventually reached an undisclosed settlement.

"She went to see the lawyer to get money, she didn't go to the police," Lambertus said.

Cobb said Goodner was motivated by justice. She said Goodner wanted "this burden lifted off her shoulders that she had carried" for years.

Lambertus said that Ewing arranged to have Goodner live in a residential facility under the supervision of nuns during the time of the alleged abuse. Lambertus questioned why Ewing would make such an arrangement if he wanted to carry on a relationship.

He said that Ewing "doesn't have a giant closet with secrets in it."

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