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New allegations against priest facing rape trial: court docs

Updated: Oct. 13, 2020 at 1:24 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - New allegations are expected to come out at the upcoming trial of a Cincinnati-area priest accused of raping an altar boy 30 years ago, according to court records FOX19 NOW obtained.

A Hamilton County judge denied a motion Tuesday to dismiss nine counts of rape against the Rev. Geoff Drew, 58, clearing the way for his trial. It could begin as soon as next week.

Drew, who waived right to appear in court on Tuesday, has pleaded not guilty. He is held in lieu of $5 million bond at the Hamilton County jail.

Drew is accused of raping a 10-year-old fourth grader between 1988 and 1991 when he was the music minister at St. Jude School in Green Township.

Drew was not a priest at the time, according to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

The victim, who is now in his early 40s, told authorities the abuse occurred in Drew’s school office after school hours. Deters has described the victim’s grand jury testimony as compelling, convincing and emotional.

Drew, who was ordained a priest in 2004, was put on administrative leave in July 2019 and indicted the following month.

Court records show prosecutors plan to reveal multiple new allegations at his trial through testimony from the victim that he had sex with Drew when he was a little older, a teenager, and from a new witness, a second alleged sexual abuse victim.

But, due to the statute of limitations, Drew cannot be charged with those two new alleged crimes.

“After three years of sexual abuse, (the victim) transferred to a different school for a year. When (he) returned to St. Jude, he had grown very tall and had become much larger,” reads a motion filed earlier this year by Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Katherine Pridemore.

"Drew left (the altar boy) alone after that. However, the effects of Drew’s abuse stayed with (him) and (the victim) became sexually promiscuous at an early age. At age 14 or 15, he went online to an AOL chatroom. (He) ended up chatting with a male about meeting up. That male questioned (the victim to make sure he wasn’t an Elder student, which he was not. The two met in a parking lot and the male ended up being Drew.

“They went to a house on Montana Avenue where sexual intercourse occurred even though (the victim) was still a minor. Although Drew committed an Unlawful Sexual Conduct with a Minor crime, the statute of limitations barred an indictment against Drew on this charge,” Assistant Prosecutor Pridemore’s motion states.

The second alleged sexual abuse victim was 12 or younger at the time, court records show.

“The State expects to call (the alleged second sexual abuse victim) who will testify that while he was a child less than 13 years of age and a student at St. Jude from 1985 thru 1987, Drew befriended him just like (the altar boy),” Assistant Prosecutor Pridemore wrote in her motion.

"Drew began grooming (the second alleged sexual abuse victim) in a similar fashion as (the altar boy). Drew would make (the second alleged sexual abuse victim) meet in his office alone like (the altar boy).

“Drew rubbed and touched (the second boy) inappropriately in a grooming pattern the same as (the altar boy). The grooming progressed to Drew eventually having repeated sexual conduct with M.S. consisting of fellatio and masturbation. Although this sexual abuse constituted Rape, the crimes fall outside of the statute of limitations and that is why the State cannot indict Drew on additional charges.”

Prosecutors also plan to call several witnesses to testify to “Drew’s Grooming Actions of Boys from Same Time Period” as the altar boy’s alleged sexual abuse.

“The State expects to offer the testimony of several witnesses who will testify that on multiple occasions, they saw Drew inappropriately touching young boys who were the same gender as (the altar boy) and who were around the same age as (him,)” the motion states.

"Their testimony will show that Drew touched these boys in the same manner as (the altar boy) and in the same physical locations of the school or music room as him. This evidence is offered to demonstrate the knowledge and plan, i.e. the modus operandi, of Drew and his grooming behavior.

“Drew’s plan was to target little boys and act like he was their friend in an effort to gain their trust and confidence. He would begin physical contact with the boys – first around the neck, shoulders and back, then to the legs and so forth," court records show.

“Drew’s motive and plan was to gain the trust of the boys so that he could have sexual relations with them. The fact that he did this to multiple little boys goes towards his knowledge and the absence of mistake. And his intent was to finally get a little boy alone so as to sexually abuse the child in order for Drew to become sexually gratified,” Assistant Prosecutor Pridemore’s motion reads.

“The State expects to offer the testimony of several witnesses who will testify that on multiple occasions, they saw Drew inappropriately touching young boys who were the same gender as (the altar boy) and who were around the same age as (him. Their testimony will show that Drew touched these boys in the same manner as (the altar boy) and in the same physical locations of the school or music room as (him).

This evidence is offered to demonstrate the knowledge and plan, i.e. the modus operandi, of Drew and his grooming behavior. Drew’s plan was to target little boys and act like he was their friend in an effort to gain their trust and confidence," Assistant Prosecutor Pridemore’s motion states.

“He would begin physical contact with the boys – first around the neck, shoulders and back, then to the legs and so forth. Drew’s motive and plan was to gain the trust of the boys so that he could have sexual relations with them. The fact that he did this to multiple little boys goes towards his knowledge and the absence of mistake. And his intent was to finally get a little boy alone so as to sexually abuse the child in order for Drew to become sexually gratified.”

Here’s the witnesses prosecutors say they plan to call to testify regarding “Drew’s grooming of little boys back in the late 1980s and early 1990s which is the time period of the indictment:”

  • Witness B (A.L.) who was a student at St. Jude during the time period stated in the indictment. While in 2nd thru 5th grades, Drew touched Witness B, a boy less than 13 years of age, by rubbing his shoulders, neck, upper back and lower back. Drew placed his hands under the shirt of the child, touching his bare back and chest. The touchings occurred on school property and lasted several seconds. Witness B was very upset by these encounters, and avoided Drew whenever possible.
  • Witness V (N.B.) who was a student at St. Jude during the time period stated in the indictment, During that period, he witnessed Drew’s grooming behavior with Witness B. Witness V observed Drew touch Witness B on several occasions, rubbing his shoulders and back, and the reaction of Witness B to these unwanted and inappropriate touchings. Witness V will testify that he and his friends never wanted to get caught alone with Drew because it was unknown what would happen and because other students would make fun of anyone being ‘alone with a creep.’"
  • Witness H (T.G.) who was a clergyman at St. Jude during the time period from 1992 to 1993 when Drew was on staff as Music Director. During that time period, Witness H often observed Drew touching young boys in an inappropriate manner. Drew put his hands on the children’s shoulders for long periods of time, and rubbed them. Witness H approached Drew about “crossing boundaries” and told Drew that what he was doing was inappropriate. Drew only rebuffed Witness H.
  • Witness J (P.D.) who was a clergyman at a local parish during the time period from 1987 thru 1992. During that time period, Witness J attended a meeting at St. Jude Parish, and encountered Drew outside the Church, loading a station wagon with four to five minor boys. Witness J inquired as to what was going on and Drew explained that they were all going on vacation together. Witness J found this to be highly unusual and inappropriate as the boys were kids. On other occasions, Witness J witnessed Drew engaged in grooming behavior by rubbing on young children inappropriately. Witness J was also told by concerned Church parishioners and employees that Drew was engaged in grooming behaviors with other children.
  • Witness L (J.A.) who attended St. Jude and then Elder High School during the time period of 1981 to 1991. While at St. Jude, Drew often touched and rubbed the Witness, a boy less than 13 years of age, particularly on his shoulders. Witness L will testify that the touchings were completely unwanted, and very upsetting. Witness L will also testify about the grade school boys Drew would target including one fourth grade boy who had a suicide in his family and was particularly vulnerable. Further, Witness L can testify that either in 1988 or 1989, Drew took some Elder boys, age 15, out of town to Chicago where he allowed them to drink alcohol, took them to a comedy show that was inappropriate for juveniles and allowed one of them to order soft porn on the single hotel room television.
  • Witness Y (J.L.) who was a student at St. Jude School from 1990 to 1998. During that time period, Drew reached down boys' shirts to rub their backs, shoulders, and necks. Witness Y remembered the boys squirming in discomfort when Drew would touch them. Drew also touched Witness Y in the same fashion and on multiple occasions. Witness Y found the touchings very alarming and upsetting.
  • Witness Z (L.R.) who was a student at St. Jude during the time period from 1985 thru 1993. Witness Z served as an altar boy, and was less than 13 years old. Drew often rubbed on Witness Z’s shoulders and touch him inappropriately.
  • Witness U (M.S.) who attended Elder High School from 1988 to 1990 as a Freshman and Sophomore. Drew was the assistant band director and Witness U was in the band. Drew would touch Witness U’s shoulders and legs with both hands. Witness U also saw Drew rub and touch other students on multiple occasions. In a separate incident, when Witness U was fourteen or fifteen years old, in 1990, Drew invited him to Drew’s home. Witness U believed that other students would be there so he accepted the invitation. However, when Witness U arrived, he found it was only he and Drew. Drew took Witness U to the basement which made Witness U extremely uncomfortable. Drew went upstairs for a moment, and Witness U quickly made a phone call home, requesting to be picked up immediately. Drew returned to the basement, and requested that Witness U sit on the couch next to him. Witness U refused, and related that his grandfather was on the way to pick him up.

Prosecutors also wrote in court records they plan to call witnesses that can testify to Drew’s “Grooming Actions of Boys in More Recent Times.”

Assistant Prosecutor Pridemore wrote: "The State has found multiple witnesses who can testify that Drew’s grooming behavior with minor boys continued on. This evidence is offered to show knowledge of grooming (the altar boy) and the absence of mistake or accident regarding the touching of (him). Drew’s modus operandi, his grooming behavior, had not changed one bit.

Prosecutors also plan to call to testify:

  • Witness N (K.C.) who was employed at St. Anthony Church in the early 2000s while Drew was in the Seminary and also interning at St. Anthony. Witness N observed Drew on multiple occasions with a young boy, (Witness W). On these occasions, Witness N saw Drew’s hands upon the child’s shoulders. Witness N thought Drew’s actions were inappropriate, and became concerned. Witness N then attended a meeting at the Seminary, and saw Drew present with the same boy. Alarmed, Witness N questioned the boy about his reasons for being at the Seminary, and he responded that it was at the invitation of Drew to take him on a tour. Witness N filed a formal complaint but is unsure of the outcome.
  • Witness W (P.B.N.) who attended St. Anthony Church in the early 2000s. At the ages of 15 to 17 years old, Witness W attended Mass alone as the witness' parent taught Sunday school. During this time, Drew befriended Witness W. After time, Drew invited Witness W to tour the Seminary with him. Witness W accepted, and upon arrival, Drew directed Witness W to Drew’s “private room.” While alone in the room, a man passed by and noticed them. The man came to the doorway and refused to leave until Drew and Witness W left. On other occasions, while in Church, Drew would approach Witness W from behind and say inappropriate things, offering Witness W a massage, or claiming that he knew someone that could give the child a massage. Drew would also frequently touch Witness W on his shoulders and the small of his back. Witness W found this unsolicited contact very upsetting and alarming.
  • Witness G (D.A.) who was at St. Rita School, at a time period from 2005-2006 when Drew was employed there. Drew often rubbed on Witness G’s shoulders, as well as other boys less than 13 years of age. Drew whispered in the boys' ears, including Witness G’s ear. Drew touched the boys on the ears and rubbed his face on the boys' faces. While in 8th grade, approximately forty or fifty boys drafted and signed their name to a typed letter requesting the school to “have Father Drew stop touching them.” The group of boys gave the signed letter to the school principal and Drew. The boys were told they were being ridiculous and were forced to apologize to Drew.
  • Witness C (A.Z.) who was an altar boy in 2011 while Drew was a Priest. Drew would give Witness C unsolicited hugs. On one occasion, after Sunday mass, Drew told Witness C that Witness C had nice legs and suggested that Witness C should wear pants because his legs were distracting.
  • Witness BB (L.K.) who was an employee of St. Maximillian Kolbe Church in 2012 when Drew was assigned there. Witness BB will testify and has proof in the form of a hotel bill that Drew went out of town on Church business and stayed at a Wyndham Hotel. While at that hotel, Drew charged two phone calls to his hotel bill, paid for by the Church. Both calls were found to be associated with a male massage service, ‘Relaxin with Gavin’, that specialized in home “male for male” nude massages and which also included sex in some instances.

Drew’s lawyer rebutted the allegations in court filings of his own, in addition to the motion he filed requesting charges be dismissed against the priest that the judge denied Tuesday.

We have reached out to a spokeswoman at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and will update this story when we hear back.

They said last year when issues with Drew became public they fully cooperated with the investigation, but they have been under criticism for how they handled allegations of abuse by Drew before he was indicted.

The Archdiocese has released a sequence of events related to Drew, who worked at several parishes and Catholic schools since 1984.

After Drew was placed on leave, church officials said he previously had been accused of inappropriate behavior involving children in 2013 and 2015 at St. Maximilian of Kolbe parish in Liberty Township.

Parishioners at St. Ignatius were upset because they were not told about previous complaints against the priest while he was at St. Maximilian.

According to the archdiocese, Drew’s alleged behavior involved a pattern of things such as uninvited bear hugs, shoulder massages, patting of the leg above the knee, and inappropriate sexual comments about one’s body or appearance, directed at teenage boys.

In addition, there was a report of Drew texting some of the boys “teasing them about their girlfriends.”

An auxiliary bishop in the archdiocese, Joseph Binzer, was removed as priest personnel director.

Archdiocese officials have said he failed to disclose to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and other archdiocese officials previous allegations that Drew engaged in inappropriate behavior with a teenage boy.

PREVIOUS l Cincinnati-area parishioners question archbishop over removal of priest l Hamilton Co. priest on administrative leave following allegations of misconduct

The CNA says sources familiar with the case said that Bishop Joseph R. Binzer was told in 2013...
The CNA says sources familiar with the case said that Bishop Joseph R. Binzer was told in 2013 about allegations concerning recently suspended priest, Fr. Geoff Drew, and failed to disclose those allegations to Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and other officials of the archdiocese.
Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis Schnurr
Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis Schnurr(Archdiocese of Cincinnati Facebook page)

Earlier this year, Binzer offered to resign in the fallout over the scandal, and Pope Francis accepted it.

“I am deeply sorry for my role in addressing the concerns raised about Father Drew, which has had a negative impact on the trust and faith of the people of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” Binzer said in a prepared statement the archdiocese sent out when they announced he was gone.

“In April, having studied this matter since last summer, the Holy See informed me that it agreed with this assessment," Binzer’s statement read. "As a result, and after much prayer and reflection, I offered my resignation from the Office of Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. I believe this to be in the best interest of the archdiocese.”

Deters and the Archdiocese have asked anyone with information to contact law enforcement authorities.

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser told FOX19 NOW last year he warned the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2019 via a verbal discussion with a chancellor to keep Drew away from children and to monitor him.

Gmoser said his office and the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office investigated accusations of inappropriate behavior against Drew and found none to be criminal.

Gmoser has told FOX19 NOW he felt Drew was “sexually grooming” the boys for future sexual abuse and he was upset to learn his warning to the archdiocese was not heeded.

Parents say they are worried the cycle of abuse and cover-up will continue if changes are not made within the local church leadership.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati said last year it submitted a report to the Vatican concerning the handling of allegations of abuse against Drew.

We asked for a copy of the report, but a spokeswoman for the archdiocese declined, calling it “confidential.”

FOX19 NOW also made several requests for comment over the past year to the Vatican and the Apostolic Nunciature, the papal embassy in Washington D.C.

They have not responded.

We reiterated our requests for comment Tuesday and also provided them a copy of Assistant Prosecutor Pridemore’s motion and a copy of a letter we obtained to the Vatican from the steering committee of Concerned Catholics of Cincinnati.

They requested an update last month on the Vatican’s investigation and called Binzer’s role a “cover-up.”

“Shortly after Drew’s indictment, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer, then head of the Archdiocesan Priest Personnel Board, revealed that, for decades, he had chosen not to enter complaints made to him about Drew’s inappropriate behavior with young boys into Drew’s official records. We call this cover-up,” the letter states.

"While not criminal, Drew’s actions are specifically forbidden in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Decree on the Protection of Children as well as the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Appalled by this cover-up and other incriminating revelations, Concerned Catholics of Cincinnati wrote to you and approximately 80 other Church leaders, including His Holiness Pope Francis, in November 2019 by certified mail.

"We urged a complete investigation of the entire Archdiocese’s handling of the Drew case, including the roles of Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, Archdiocesan Chancellor Steve Angi and, of course, Bishop Binzer, among others.

"This letter was accompanied by a petition signed by 1545 people representing more than 50 parishes who supported our efforts. One of the most troubling incriminations came from a local County Prosecuting Attorney who had warned the Archdiocese a full year before Drew’s arrest to “keep an eye” on Drew.

"The PA alerted top Archdiocesan officials to keep Drew away from young people and to assign him a monitor for his behavior. Incredibly, neither of these warnings was acted upon by the Archdiocese, allowing Drew to continue his interaction with children. He met one-on-one with youngsters, including those preparing for sacraments. Concerned parents sent even more complaints, even voicing some of them in a public meeting with Archdiocesan officials including Archbishop Schnurr.

"Tragically, they were never answered. Even more unbelievable, the parish school, never apprised of the Prosecuting Attorney’s warning, opened a preschool in the same building as Drew’s office and residence. The Prosecuting Attorney, when discovering that his warnings had been ignored, stated in the press, ‘That sort of falls into the absurd category – or how about stupid?’

“While our letter received responses from several Bishops and Archbishops and Catholic lay leaders, sadly, we heard nothing from your office nor the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The only visible outcome to our effort appeared with the resignation of Bishop Binzer in May, 2020. Binzer stated then that he was “deeply sorry for my role in addressing the concerns raised about Father (Geoffrey) Drew”.

The letter goes on to state: "How did the Archdiocese respond? Archbishop Dennis Schnurr promptly conferred the title Bishop Emeritus on Binzer, followed shortly thereafter by Binzer’s celebration of a Mass officially opening the 2019-2020 Catholic school year. In our opinion, this is hardly a visual message of a commitment “to doing everything possible to eliminate this horrific evil from our parishes and school”.

“Today, we urge answers to the following:

  • Who investigated the Drew case?
  • Who investigated Bishop Binzer’s role in the Drew case?
  • Were Archbishop Schnurr, Chancellor Angi and other Archdiocesan leaders included in the investigation? If so, what were the results? If not, why not?”

In closing, the letter states:

“We implore you to respond to the questions and concerns raised in this letter. Without communication, there is no hope for healing and reconciliation. And, indeed, isn’t this what we’re all working to achieve?"

On Tuesday, members of Concerned Catholics of Cincinnati put out a statement saying they were “appalled” at the allegations against him and/or concerns about his behavior publicly revealed for the first time against Drew in the court record we uncovered, including ones when he was in the seminary, interning and after he became a priest.

They also are calling for public release of the church’s “secret files” detailing decades of alleged sex abuse by clergymen, saying Ohio is known to be one of the weakest states for child protection laws "and this must change.”

“We first and foremost we want to express our support for these survivors for their bravery in coming forward. We are appalled that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati saw an obvious continued pattern of concerning behavior over decades and over three counties, yet continued to give him access and authority in our community," reads the statement from Jan Seidel.

"There are complaints that pre-dated his entry to the seminary and then a complaint while in the seminary. As outlined here, you see that on his first assignment as a priest in Montgomery County, a group of boys were so uncomfortable that they wrote a letter expressing their concern. There were then more complaints over the next few years.

"How can we not hold the Archdiocese accountable for endangering children? How could they allow such a dangerous man, such as Father Drew, to be placed at St. Ignatius, one of the largest parishes and largest parochial school in Ohio, with this type of a history? Shouldn’t our Prosecutor, Joe Deters be looking into this?

"We feel it is also time that our local Prosecutor, and our Attorney General Dave Yost, allow an investigation similar to that of Josh Shapiro and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. The “secret files”, as described by Pope Francis are to be opened.

"We need complete transparency about other possible abusive priests that were repeatedly moved or possibly reassigned, or even those that have left the priesthood and could now be out in the general public continuing to abuse.

'It is also clear that is it time to strengthen our laws to protect children from the grooming and enticement that leads to much of this type of abuse. Ohio is known to be one of the weakest states for child protection laws and this must change."

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