Grand jury witness joins legal battle to make clergy-abuse report public
A Philadelphia law firm representing a man who testified he was abused in the 1980s by a Harrisburg priest has joined in the push to unseal a statewide grand jury report into sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
Kline & Specter joined the Pennsylvania attorney general and members of the news media in the legal battle to make the report public.
The firm represents Todd Frey, who testified before the grand jury and believes he and others have a right to see the more than 800-page report completed by the grand jury. The report is expected to detail clergy sexual abuse in six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses, including those based in Greensburg and Pittsburgh.
“Mr. Frey is one of many victims whose voice must be heard in opposition to those who seek to keep this grand jury report secret. We hope that the court will act quickly to release the entire report,” said firm co-founder Tom Kline, who represents Frey along with partners David Inscho and Charles Becker.
Kline and Inscho only a few weeks ago obtained the largest-ever settlement against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the family of Sean McIlmail in a case involving his alleged prolonged sexual abuse by a serial pedophile priest at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Northeast Philadelphia. The lawsuit claimed that McIlmail was abused between the ages of 11 and 14 and that the archdiocese knew about more than a decade of allegations against his alleged attacker, Rev. Robert Brennan, who was twice removed from prior parishes. McIlmail died of a drug overdose at the age of 26.
In this latest legal case, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro sought to release the grand jury report and predicted the public would see it by the end of June. That plans was temporarily blocked June 20 by a state Supreme Court order.
Nine news organizations have also sought to compel release of the report, calling unsealing the document a “matter of extraordinary public importance.”
In the legal filing, Frey quotes Pope Francis who, in his 2015 visit to Philadelphia, said: “I continue to be ashamed that persons charged with the tender care of those little ones abused them and caused them grave harm. I deeply regret this. God weeps. The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of minors may no longer be kept secret.”
The grand jury convened after a 2016 investigation into sexual abuse allegations in the Johnstown Altoona diocese uncovered a pattern of sexual abuse and cover-ups dating back five decades. The 18-month investigation, led by Shapiro’s office, included dioceses in Allentown, Scranton, Erie, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. It already led to the arrests of two priests, one each from the Greensburg and Erie dioceses.
Cambria County Judge Norman A. Krumenacker III in early June refused to delay the public release of a grand jury report, which diocese officials and attorneys have had since May.