AG argues church abuse of the grand jury report should be public

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s attorney general told the state Supreme Court on Thursday he supports a request from news organizations that the court order the release of a comprehensive report on sexual abuse of children and attempts to cover up in a number of the state of the Roman-Catholic dioceses.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro also said in the court filing that his office opposes the request of unnamed parties to present their own evidence, question witnesses and rewriting of the grand jury report, “in accordance with their desired view of the facts.”

He argued that the report should not be delayed, calling it a matter of exceptional public importance.

“Hundreds of deaths, thousands of parishioners and many members of the community are awaiting the report,” Shapiro wrote in the court filing. “The longer it is held, the greater the risk of undermining the public’s confidence in the judicial system.”

The judge who supervised the provincial research-grand jury ordered the report of the release a month ago, but the Supreme court on 20 June, citing the challenges for the release of “many people” mentioned in the document.

The court has sealed the names of people who challenge report, as well as all of the court documents that they have submitted.

In a five-page opinion released in the last month of the Supreme court said that most of the challengers claim that the report of the discussion of them would harm the reputation of the rights guaranteed by the state constitution and that they have a due process right to be heard by the grand jury.

Shapiro countered that unindicted people who were cited in the report in a way that “can be construed as criticism” were given an unrestricted right to the reactions that are expected to be released along with the report.

Shapiro filed a document under seal seeking the release on Monday, the same day that the news organizations are separately asked to intervene and plead for it to be made public, together with the docket sheets and filings.

The report covers six of the state’s Roman Catholic dioceses — Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton. Five of the six bishops refused to appear before the grand jury, instead of submitting written statements. The Erie bishop testified, according to court papers.

The grand jury supervising judge, Norman Krumenacker, described the investigation as involving allegations of sexual abuse of children, failure to report endangering the welfare of children and obstruction of justice by people associated with the church, as well as local officials and leaders of the community.

Thursday the submission by the attorney-general said a further delay of the release of “can not be justified.”

“The Challengers have failed completely to explain why their right of unlimited response is insufficient to satisfy due process and permit immediate release of the report here,” Shapiro wrote. “Their answers will work the same way as the report by speaking directly to the citizens. The only “certainly,” the body is the public itself.”

The grand jury finished its term and was dissolved.

The attorney-general against a proposal of the news organizations that, if the court decides that it needs more time to consider the legal challenges, can be directly to the report of the version with only the parts that are involved are shielded.

Editorial, Shapiro argued, “would only further undermine confidence in the process, and could suggest the appearance of preferential treatment of certain citizens.”

Continued secrecy about the challenges for the grand jury as an institution, ” he said, “can of itself undermine confidence by suggesting the appearance that certain citizens be granted the privilege of litigating in the public eye, despite the impact of the disputes about the rights of all citizens.”

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