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No Fast Ruling In Historic Case Of Catholic Bishop

Bish Finn  jax crthse 0327012.jpg
Dan Verbeck
Bishop Robert Finn leaves Jackson County Courthouse, Kansas City, MO., after attempts to dismiss historic criminal case against him.

It will be two days or a week before Bishop Robert Finn and those following his case and that of his Catholic Diocese will know if the man and the institution will continue to face trial.

Attorneys, pro and con, have argued the validity of criminal charges.

Jackson County Circuit Judge John Torrence listened as points in contention were laid out, then countered by the county prosecutor. The case followed a regular docket call featuring defendants wearing jail-orange uniforms.  Bishop Finn wore black clerical garb, sat in the courtroom and offered no comments.

Finn and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are charged with a criminal misdemeanor of failing to report alleged evidence of child pornography on the computer of a diocesan priest.

It is the first time in the recent history of child sex abuse in the U.S. Church that someone as high ranking as Bishop Finn has been charged.

The Bishop’s lawyers asked Judge Torrence to sever the two cases, creating separate trials to avoid confusion of allegations.  Afterward, defense attorney J.R. Hobbs was surrounded by reporters next to the car carrying the Bishop, saying-- “we thought the judge gave us an ample opportunity to argue and, can’t really comment on it further than that.”

Co-defense counsel Gerald Handley, who spent decades as a federal public defender, would concede that there were “lively” moments in the debate-- “there certainly were. I always think our side is stronger than the other. Thank you.”

Another point to be decided by Judge Torrence is that Finn should not face charges because he is not the one designated to report such cases to authorities, a point in dispute.

The Jackson County Prosecutor declined to comment on the case.  The judge expects to rule late this week or early next.

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