DIOCESE OF ERIE UPDATES PUBLIC DISCLOSURE LIST
The Diocese of Erie has updated its Public Disclosure List, which contains the names of persons who have been “credibly accused of actions that, in the diocese’s judgment, disqualify them from working with children.” In addition, it has added an explanation of the investigative process to its website to clarify what occurs when a person is under investigation. The explanation has been included in this release.
Four laypersons, one of whom is deceased, and one former priest have been added to the list of those with credible allegations. Two of the laypeople are new to the list; one layperson and the former priest have been moved from “under investigation” to “credibly accused.” The fifth person, who previously had been listed as awaiting trial, is now awaiting sentencing, and has therefore moved to the “credibly accused” list.
Two other priests and one additional layperson, all of whom are deceased, have been added to the list of those under investigation. They are presumed innocent unless proved otherwise.
Names of all of those mentioned above follow. The full list can be found at https://www.eriercd.org/childprotection/disclosure.html.
As always, anyone who may have knowledge of these situations or who has been affected by similar improprieties, is encouraged to report that information through any of the outlets listed at the end of this release.
New names added to the list of credible allegations (living)
• Jonathan J. Borkowski — Fairview, Pennsylvania Former lay employee (previously under investigation)
• Former Fr. Thomas M. Lechner—Sewickley, Pennsylvania Laicized (previously under investigation)
• Ann Marie Hanes (Strall) — Spokane, Washington Former lay teacher
• Robert D. Viszneki —Erie, Pennsylvania Former parish volunteer (previously awaiting trial, now awaiting sentencing)
New name added to the list of credible allegations (deceased)
• Albert S. Davies Former lay teacher Date of Death: September 2005
New names under investigation:
• Fr. Stephen A. Anderson — deceased
• Michael L. DiFrancisco — deceased
• Msgr. Conrad L. Kraus — deceased
Modification made to existing name on the list:
• Fr. Edward W. Jungquist was thought to be deceased. He is now listed as “whereabouts unknown,” and is forbidden to function as a priest.
The Diocese of Erie, in collaboration with its independent investigators at the Pittsburgh-based K&L Gates law firm, will continue investigating all allegations brought forth. A new summary of what occurs when a person is under investigation, follows. A link to the same information can now be found on the same webpage as the Public Disclosure List.\
Explanation of investigative process and “under investigation” category for the Diocese of Erie’s Public Disclosure website
The Diocese of Erie has retained independent investigators to pursue allegations of abuse and other wrongdoing regarding the protection of children and youth, including failure to report/act to stop abuse. Reports from alleged victims will always result in some form of investigative response. To be clear, all reports of abuse made to the diocese are submitted to both law enforcement and the independent investigators in a timely fashion as a matter of course. The independent investigators and/or law enforcement officials will communicate to the diocese their assessment of the credibility of an allegation, which the diocese considers in determining who will be listed on the public disclosure website.
Initial investigation steps (whether by law enforcement or independent investigators) are generally non-public. If these steps corroborate the essential facts of the initial report, the diocese will indicate that an individual is under investigation. The names of living individuals under investigation are published to prevent potential further harm to children or vulnerable adults. The names of deceased individuals are published to determine if additional victims or witnesses may exist who can help to resolve the investigation. A court order, a request from law enforcement, or some other extenuating circumstance may stop this publication until further proceedings or investigations occur. As such, the independent investigators will defer to law enforcement to ensure that law enforcement’s investigative efforts are not prejudiced.
As the independent investigators conduct their investigation, they are free to investigate any action that may, by law or in the judgment of the diocese, disqualify a person from working with children, regardless of whether the action could be secularly prosecuted. They are not bound by criminal or civil statutes of limitation. They may also consider any evidence they deem relevant, regardless of whether it would be admissible in a secular court proceeding.
Consistent with the interests of protecting victims, children, and vulnerable adults, and of putting the public on notice in a timely manner, the diocese seeks to resolve investigations in the most expedient manner possible, in order to positively identify those individuals who can be deemed “credibly accused” and to remove the names of those who have been wrongfully implicated.
Removal from the “Under Investigation” category:
An investigation can resolve itself in either of two ways: the allegation is determined to be credible or the allegation is found to be unsubstantiated.
An individual will be moved from “under investigation” to the list of “credibly accused” if there is credible evidence indicating the individual should not be working with children or youth that is sufficient to outweigh any contrary evidence. Examples include (1) a secular law-enforcement or child-protective government body concludes guilt, (2) multiple credible unrelated accusers exist, (3) the accused admits guilt, (4) contemporaneous corroborating historical reports of misconduct or disciplinary action exist, or (5) the subject refuses to cooperate with the investigation after being put on notice as to the existence of a report of abuse.
The Diocese of Erie’s Independent Survivors’ Reparation Program opened on February 15, 2019, and will continue to accept claims through August 15, 2019. Victims interested in learning more about this program should visit www.ErieRCD.org/isrp.html. The webpage provides a link to the site managed by Kenneth Feinberg, whose organization is managing the fund wholly independent of the Diocese of Erie.
Update on the Diocese of Erie’s Independent Survivors’ Reparation Program
When the Diocese of Erie announced it was opening its Independent Survivors’ Reparation Program on Feb. 15, 2019, Bishop Lawrence Persico noted two unique features: First, that claimants would be given the option of using a lawyer on a pro bono basis to apply to the fund, and second, that claimants would be able to request access to files pertinent to their cases. Today, the diocese provides updates on both of those features.
While clients remain free to hire their own attorney, the diocese asked its lawyers at the K&L Gates law firm to arrange for attorneys outside of its firm willing to serve in this capacity on a pro bono basis. For all involved, the goal remains to give each victim the opportunity to seek compensation in the way he or she feels most comfortable.
Bishop Persico is pleased to report that an impressive roster of volunteers, working for a range of organizations from local nonprofits to major law firms, have stepped forward in response to the request for pro bono services. The following law firms have agreed to provide lawyers willing to serve in this capacity:
Northwestern Legal Services, Erie, Pa.
Children’s Advocacy Clinic, Carlisle, Pa.
And three firms with offices nationwide:
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Washington, DC
White & Case LLP, New York, NY
Wilmer Hale LLP, Washington, DC.
Victims participating in the program interested in selecting a lawyer to accompany them, free of charge, may request a list of lawyers volunteering to do so by emailing ErieRCD@klgates.com. Every effort will be made to match lawyers who are geographically near the survivor and/or the area where the abuse occurred.
In addition, the Diocese of Erie has indicated that any survivor who wishes to view the diocese’s files concerning his or her case will be welcome to do so. Several victims using the fund already have taken advantage of this opportunity. A request for the relevant files should be made directly to the diocese’s law firm at ErieRCD@KLgates.com.
Since the Diocese of Erie first published its April 2018 Public Disclosure List, with the names of people credibly accused of actions that, in the diocese’s judgment, disqualify them from working with children, it has updated the information five times.