Texas prosecutors hope to send priest to jail in abuse case Catholic clergyman who lost civil trial now faces criminal charges

March 23, 1998|By DALLAS MORNING NEWS

DALLAS -- Last summer, when civil trial jurors in Dallas awarded the largest monetary judgment in a clergy sex abuse case in U.S. history, the man at the center of the case walked the streets free.

In this week's criminal trial, suspended Roman Catholic priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos' freedom hangs in the balance. Twelve Dallas County jurors will be asked to convict or acquit Kos, 52, of eight sex abuse charges involving four young men who told police they were molested about 1,350 times.

If convicted of the most serious charges, Kos could be sentenced to life in prison and would not be eligible for parole for 30 years. Kos, a former nurse and Air Force medic, has pleaded not guilty. Testimony could begin tomorrow.

"The issue in this case is squarely the culpability of Rudy Kos," said state District Judge Janice L. Warder, who is presiding over Kos' criminal trial. "In the civil case, the issue became the culpability of the diocese."

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas also was a defendant in the civil trial.

Unlike the civil trial, in which the truth of the allegations never became an issue, prosecutors will be required in the criminal trial to prove Kos molested the boys.

First Assistant District Attorney Norman Kinne described Kos as one of the worst molesters in the county's history and said he is confident the state will convince the jury of Kos' guilt.

According to testimony in the 11-week civil trial, Kos abused boys at churches in Dallas, Ennis and Irving, Texas, from 1981 to 1992.

"We have a strong case," Kinne said, adding that Kos deserves the maximum punishment. "Anytime you have a person in a high position of trust who deals with children and who violates that trust, you have an egregious offense," he said.

Brad Lollar, one of Kos' court-appointed criminal defense attorneys, readily concedes that his client faces an uphill battle.

"Anytime you've got 12 to 15 people going to say something happened, then regardless of whether or not it did happen, I think the natural inclination of somebody being told that is to think it did happen," he said.

"In this case, the whole criminal trial has been impacted by the civil trial having preceded it, and that's kind of unusual in this county."

In July, the civil jury found in favor of 11 plaintiffs and returned a $119.6 million judgment against Kos and the diocese. Jurors found that the diocese covered up the abuse; they urged church leaders to "admit your guilt."

Kos is charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, one count of sexual assault of a child and four counts of indecency with a child. The aggravated sexual assault charges, first-degree felonies, carry up to a life sentence and $10,000 fine on each count.

The diocese suspended Kos as a priest in 1993, 14 months after the first youth complained of being sexually abused by him.

Kos spent nearly five years in California before police arrested him in October on the eight sex abuse charges he now faces. At the time of his arrest, he was free on bond in connection with two abuse charges that have since been dropped because they fell beyond a 10-year statute of limitations.

Pub Date: 3/23/98

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