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Judge dismisses 1 count against KC diocese, bishop

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed one of two civil counts against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Bishop Robert Finn filed by a victim who was the subject of lewd photographs taken by a diocese priest in a western Missouri church.

The judge dismissed the charge that accused the diocese and Finn of aiding and abetting the Rev. Shawn Ratigan in his possession of lewd images of the victim, known in the lawsuits as Jane Doe 173, The Kansas City Star reported (http://bit.ly/19sD9iw). The victim also accused them of receiving, possessing or distributing pornographic images of her, and that count remains.

Ratigan, who hasn’t been sentenced, pleaded guilty in federal court in August to taking pornographic pictures of the girl, who was about 2 years old, in a Buchanan County church in May 2006. He was named as a defendant in the civil suit but never responded.

U.S. District Judge Gary Fenner dismissed the aiding and abetting claim Tuesday because federal law defines it as assisting before or during the commission of a crime.

“Defendants’ involvement with the images on the laptop occurred after Ratigan’s alleged crimes regarding the laptop were completed,” Fenner wrote. “Accordingly, defendants cannot be said to have aided and abetted Ratigan’s completed crimes.”

The Ratigan scandal shook the local Catholic diocese after hundreds of lewd photos of young girls were found on the priest’s laptop computer. Finn later was found guilty in Jackson County of the misdemeanor crime of failing to notify police or state child welfare authorities about the photos.

Finn and the diocese still face the second civil count alleging they received, possessed or distributed pornographic images of Jane Doe 173. Jurors could be asked to decide if three images of the girl were pornographic and whether Finn and the diocese deliberately ignored clear evidence that the images constituted child pornography.

A spokesman for the diocese declined to comment Wednesday morning because of pending litigation. The trial on the civil case is scheduled to begin Monday.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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