Brown cannot prosecute accused Queens priests

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Despite receiving more names of priests accused of sexually abusing children from the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Queens district attorney said Tuesday he could not prosecute any of the men on the list under current laws.

But an attorney for the accusers of one of those priests, the Rev. James Smith, who recently was removed as the pastor of St. Kevin’s Church in Flushing, said he is mounting a case against the Diocese of Brooklyn for participating in a cover-up of sex crimes committed by priests.

Smith wrote a letter to a woman in which he confessed to having molested her years before, one of Smith’s accusers said.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to curtail the crisis, the leader of the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Edward Egan, gathered along with other American cardinals to discuss the sex abuse scandal with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in Rome.

The priest sex scandal in Queens dates back to at least 1991, when a Corona priest from Venezuela was convicted of inappropriately touching three boys, The New York Times reported.

The Diocese of Brooklyn gave the names of 15 accused priests to the Queens district attorney and the Brooklyn district attorney on April 12 and then referred another 21 names to the prosecutors in a process completed last Thursday, said Frank DeRosa, a spokesman for the diocese, which also covers Queens.

Slightly less than half of those names were disclosed to the Queens district attorney’s office, DeRosa said.

Few of the priests on the list are actively working and those who still are associated with parishes have been placed on administrative leave, DeRosa said.

But Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said he could not prosecute any of the names on the list he received because of the statue of limitations, said district attorney spokesman Patrick Clark. In the case of felonies involving children, the statute extends five years past the child’s 18th birthday, Clark said.

Michael Dowd, an attorney representing more than 20 of Smith’s accusers, said he was looking not only at the filing of civil suits against Smith but against the Diocese of Brooklyn itself.

Dowd said that the statute of limitation law differs for civil suits, and he plans to move forward with a lawsuit.

Updated 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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