This afternoon Jenner Law and our co-counsel from Grant & Eisenhofer held a joint press conference, alongside sexual assault and abuse survivors, to announce our latest legal action on behalf of survivors of clergy abuse. Our clients, survivors of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and their advocates, are demanding the courts release a 456-page report detailing the history of allegations against priests and resulting coverup in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the fruit of a nearly four-year state investigation.
Joining us at the press conference were three of our clients. Gemma Hoskins was a student at Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School, where the abuse was rampant, and where she was inspired by the late Sister Cathy Cesnik, to become a teacher. Because of Cathy’s influence, Gemma had the honor of being the 1992 Maryland Teacher of the Year. Gemma is the central investigative figure in The Keepers, a Netflix documentary about the murder and cover-up of Sister Cesnik’s death in 1969, and is a published author on her life experiences.
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Also joining us was David Lorenz who serves as the Maryland Director for the nonprofit corporation, Survivors Network of those Sexually Abused by Priests “(“SNAP”). Our client, SNAP, is the most active support group nationally and internationally for women and men wounded by religious and institutional authorities.
Finally, we were joined by Donna Vondenbosh, similarly, a survivor of the horrors at Archbishop Keogh. Featured in The Keepers, Donna believes that the healing process begins with openness and transparency of all proceedings, and she shared her story publicly in the pages of the Baltimore Sun. Another survivor and client, Michele Stanton, was unable to attend the conference, but like Gemma, Donna and David, she looks forward to the release of the AG report.
Attached is a press release describing our efforts.
What is this all about?
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The Maryland Attorney General conducted a massive investigation, spanning some 4 years, on sexual abuse crimes committed by clergy members in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This investigation, in which our clients here today cooperated, culminated in a 456 page report.
Inspired by the Netflix documentary, The Keepers, the Maryland Attorney General embarked on this in-depth review of priests and other clergies in Baltimore who either committed heinous crimes of abuse or shielded sexual predators such that they could be moved from parish to parish.
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Survivors of these crimes, including Michele Stanton and Donna Vondembosh, cooperated with the AG and recounted the horrors of their past. As the release of the 456-page investigation is being considered by the courts, these brave individuals, together with our client advocates, now seek transparency. They want the report released, for themselves and all survivors, as part of their quest not only for accountability but for some modicum of healing.
The release of the report validates their stories and legitimizes their claims. Only when this is out in the open, can the healing truly begin.
A Facebook group that Gemma and others started as a place for Keough alumni to discuss the abuse and Sister Cathy Cisnek’s unsolved death has grown to 145,000 members. This is a testament to not only the breadth of the problem, but also to the need for survivors to speak, seek answers, and find solidarity.
We anticipate that the report will contain new details about the events at Archbishop Keough High School in the late 1960s and early ’70s. The Attorney General’s office itself has asked the courts to allow the release of the Grand Jury investigation into the Archdiocese of Baltimore. However, on November 21, an anonymous group of people who are named in the report but not accused of actual abuse, filed a request that the AG’s investigation not be released. This request – to further enshroud and cover up the crimes suffered by survivors yet again – is what our clients take issue with and seek to oppose. To that end, we will be filing our own papers in Court today.
State law requires that a judge approve the release of grand jury materials. In general terms, our filing today seeks to assure the transparency of the report. Our clients want a voice in that discussion.
This past Friday, a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge ordered the case sealed, meaning hearings and motions about releasing the report will not be made public. Accordingly, we will speak about our anticipated filing in general terms only, but our request – that our clients have a voice in this process – is in essence what we are here to advocate today.
The Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, on behalf of two survivors, has also filed a motion asking for the full disclosure of the report with no redactions.
On behalf of our clients, we support the request of the Maryland AG, and the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center.