Enquirer News Update   -   Updated 6:40 p.m.

Former principal sentenced to five years probation

By Sherry Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

DAYTON -- A former Elder High School principal was sentenced today to serve five years probation for providing alcohol to minors and engaging in public indecency at his home in suburban Dayton.

Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Mary Katherine Huffman ordered Thomas Kuhn, 63, to be intensively supervised by his probation officer during the next five years. She also ordered Kuhn to stay out of all establishments that serve alcohol or where patrons can gamble. He was also ordered to have no contact with the victims or any one under the age of 21.

Kuhn pleaded no contestto misdemeanor charges last month and could have faced up to 18 months in prison. 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-porn laws.

Court documents show that the computers had been used more than 100 times to access Web sites with names such as boyforboy, boyzparty and cityboyz.

Kuhn is the second priest in nearly a decade to be convicted of misconduct involving a child. The other, Ken Schoettmer, was sentenced to probation after admitting he molested a 17-year-old boy in Cincinnati.

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 or even decades 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 another child.

Heck said the public indecency charge is based on the masturbation accusation. It states that Kuhn recklessly engaged in behavior that an ordinary person would consider sexual conduct.

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

It's unclear what Kuhn's conviction will mean for his status as a priest, although he remains suspended from ministry. Under new "zero-tolerance" rules on child abuse, Kuhn could be permanently removed from ministry.