Judge declares mistrial in priest's abuse trial

Friday, May 23, 2003

CLAYTON, Mo. -- A judge declared a mistrial Thursday when jurors could not decide on the guilt or innocence of a Roman Catholic priest accused of molesting a teenager eight years ago.

Afterward, prosecutors said they will try the Rev. Bryan Kuchar again.

Kuchar, 37, faced six counts of statutory sodomy involving a 14-year-old boy in 1995. He faced up to 42 years in prison if convicted.

The alleged abuse occurred when Kuchar was associate pastor at Assumption Catholic Church in St. Louis County.

Jurors had deliberated for the better part of two days, sending notes periodically to St. Louis County Circuit Judge John Ross saying they were unable to resolve the case. Some jurors told reporters Thursday half the jury believed Kuchar's testimony, the other half believed prosecutors' version of events.

Presented at trial was Kuchar's 20-minute audiotaped confession to police, in which he admitted having oral and anal sex with the teen. During his testimony, Kuchar said the confession was a lie so police would leave him alone and let him go home.

He now denies any wrongdoing.

David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said after the case was declared a mistrial there are more victims of Kuchar and "it's more important than ever to find the strength and courage" to come forward.

In a statement, the Archdiocese of St. Louis said officials had hoped the trial would bring closure and that the jury's deadlock indicated how difficult such cases can be. "We hope that, for the good of all concerned, closure in this case can be reached in a timely fashion," the statement said.

Kuchar was arrested in April 2002 when he was associate pastor at St. Louis Cathedral in midtown St. Louis. He was also director of the Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Authorities said the victim confided in a private counselor and his parents about the abuse in 1997, but the matter wasn't turned over to police until last year.

In February, former Roman Catholic priest Gary Wolken of St. Louis was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing a young boy over a three-year period. St. Louis Archdiocese officials said it marked the first time in recent memory that one of its priests was sent to prison in a sexual abuse case.

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