Judge rules Kansas City bishop must stand trial


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Missouri judge declined to dismiss misdemeanor charges of failing to report suspected child sexual abuse against Bishop Robert W. Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, which he heads.

The ruling by Circuit Court Judge John M. Torrence paves the way for Bishop Finn and the diocese to stand trial, set for September. Both the bishop and the diocese have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Torrence denied motions by attorneys for the bishop, who had argued during a hearing March 27 that the charges should be dismissed because they were unconstitutionally vague and that Bishop Finn was not the diocese’s designated official responsible for reporting sexual abuse to authorities.

“The court finds that the evidence in this case is sufficient to allow a jury to conclude that Bishop Finn was a designated reporter as defined by Missouri law,” Torrence wrote.

He also ruled that “this court finds and concludes that persons of ordinary intelligence have no difficulty understanding the meaning of ‘immediately report.'”

Diocesan spokeswoman Rebecca Summers referred inquiries to the attorneys in the case. Attorneys Gerald Handley and J.R. Hobbs, representing Bishop Finn, and Jean Paul Bradshaw II, representing the diocese, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Torrence also denied a defense motion to have the bishop and the diocese tried separately, explaining that there was no reason to have two trials in a case involving most of the same facts.

In mid-October, Bishop Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph entered pleas of not guilty to misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse brought by the prosecutor in the case of Father Shawn Ratigan.

Father Ratigan was arrested in May on state charges of possessing child pornography and charged in nearby Clay County. In August, federal prosecutors charged him with13 counts of child pornography. He remains jailed awaiting trial.

The charges stem from the discovery of child pornography on a church computer in December 2010.

Another diocesan official reported the findings to police in May.

The charge against Bishop Finn carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and one year in jail. The diocese faces a fine of up to $5,000.