Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grand jury to meet on Ratigan case

Grand jurors in Jackson County soon will hear evidence related to the Rev. Shawn Ratigan case, independent sources have told the newspaper.
A local grand jury is poised to explore the case of a priest already facing child pornography charges in state and federal courts, The Star has learned.
The sources asked that their names not be used because of their close relationships to numerous parties affiliated with the case.
The topic and target of the grand jury probe are unclear, however a similar panel in U.S. District Court has appeared to focus on Ratigan’s conduct. The Star’s sources suggested that authorities now are concerned with how the Catholic hierarchy handled Ratigan’s alleged misdeeds.
A spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office declined to confirm or deny the possible existence of a grand jury exploring the Ratigan case.
Diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers declined to comment on a television report that Bishop Robert Finn, who leads the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, had been subpoenaed. She also would not comment on the emergence of a new grand jury investigation.
“We’ve been cooperating with law enforcement since May 12, when Monsignor (Robert) Murphy picked up the phone and telephoned the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department to discuss this with them,” Summers said. “We’ve been cooperating with them since then and have fully allowed ourselves to be interviewed and made ourselves available to the detectives.”
In May, Ratigan was charged with three counts of possession of child pornography in Clay County. Federal grand jurors later charged him with 13 counts of production, attempted production and possession of child porn.
In May 2010, the principal of a Catholic school had complained to diocesan officials about Ratigan’s purportedly inappropriate behavior around children. Other than counseling Ratigan to moderate his conduct, his church superiors took little substantial action.
In December, diocesan authorities found what prosecutors later alleged was child pornography on Ratigan’s computer. The church relieved him of his duties as pastor of a Northland church and assigned him to live at an Independence mission house, where he allegedly attempted to take pornographic photos of a young girl.
Finn has apologized for his handling of the case.

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KMBC 9 News has learned that a Jackson County grand jury has subpoenaed Bishop Robert Finn in connection with the church's handling of child sex allegations against priests.
Michael Mahoney reported that while Finn has been subpoenaed, it is not known when or even if he will actually appear.
He said Finn has been relieved of the subpoena, although attorneys asked about the case had differing opinions on what it could mean.
The grand jury investigation could go in multiple directions, Mahoney said. He said the grand jurors could be looking into Shawn Ratigan's arrest on child pornography charges, although the case originated in Clay County. Mahoney said it could also be focusing on the church and its official response to the Ratigan case or even the state's child abuse reporting laws.
Finn's counsel said only that "Bishop Finn, the Kansas City Diocese and its employees are cooperating with law enforcement in the Shawn Ratigan investigation."
Barbara Dorris of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests criticized Finn for not honoring a 2008 pledge to promptly report problems to state authorities.
"He has exhausted his good name," she said. "He only does what he has to do when pushed by the media or by the victims."
The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office declined comment on the story, Mahoney said.

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