KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph has to provide prosecutors with information about the diocese’s investigation into past reports of priests accused of abusing children, a Jackson County judge has ruled.
Jackson County Circuit Judge John M. Torrence, who is overseeing a case against Bishop Robert Finn and the diocese, also said in a ruling Wednesday that the diocese must turn over documents from the independent investigation into the case of the Rev. Shawn Ratigan that the diocese commissioned.
Ratigan has pleaded not guilty to state and federal child pornography charges and remains jailed.
Finn and the diocese are charged with misdemeanor failure to report suspected abuse to the state after learning of suspected child pornography on Ratigan’s computer. Finn has acknowledged learning about the photos in December 2010, six months before Ratigan was arrested. The trial is scheduled for September.
When prosecutors requested documents about the Ratigan investigation, attorneys for the diocese countered that records of interviews by U.S. Attorney Todd Graves’ law firm are protected by attorney-client privilege. The judge disagreed, however, saying the diocese publicly announced Graves was conducting the 2011 investigation and said that it would issue a public report when the investigation was concluded.
“The attorney-client privilege does not apply to communications intended to be disclosed to third parties or those which are in fact disclosed,” Torrence said in his ruling.
Torrence also said that while information about the diocese’s investigations into alleged misconduct regarding five other priests is relevant to the state’s current case, the information could not be photocopied and must be returned to the diocese’s lawyers within 10 days of the case being completed, The Kansas City Star reported.
Lawyer Gerald Handley, who represents Finn, said Thursday that he was still studying the ruling and continuing to prepare for trial.
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