Man says he abused 16 to 18, now wants identity shielded

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A man who told a grand jury investigating child sex abuse that he had victimized 16 to 18 people, but who couldn't be prosecuted because the cases were too old, is now seeking to keep his name and any other identifying information from being made public.

Details of the 2018 investigation and the man's testimony were disclosed this week when the state Supreme Court unsealed documents in the dispute over the grand jury's yet-to-be-released report, with any information that could identify the man blacked out.

The judge who supervised the grand jury in Franklin County, near the Maryland border, had said the report should be public.

But the admitted serial abuser appealed to the state's highest court. His lawyers say that allowing him to be identified now would effectively be an end run around the state's statute of limitations, which the judge said is shielding him from prosecution.

The grand jury investigation began a year ago with a single victim "seeking justice for wrongs committed against him decades ago," but others later came forward, including four adult men who were teenagers when, they said, they were victimized about 40 years ago, Common Pleas Judge Carol Van Horn wrote in one of the newly unsealed documents.

"Here we have an admission from the unindicted person who is protected by the statute of limitations from criminal prosecution after he was afforded all the protections of due process," the judge said in ordering the report's release.

Furthermore, she noted, the man who was the subject of the investigation "estimated the number of victims of his abuse to be 16 to 18" and chose not to have a lawyer with him when he testified.

Jurors, she said, felt compelled to issue the report and provide counseling resources, "given the reference to the number of victims by all who testified."

The man's lawyer Brian Platt declined to comment Thursday.

Franklin County District Attorney Matthew Fogal, who wants the Supreme Court to uphold the judge's findings that the report be public, also declined to comment, citing grand jury confidentiality.

His lawyers have some recent precedent on their side in seeking to shield the man's identity.

Late last year, the state's high court granted a request by 11 Roman Catholic clerics to keep their names out of a separate investigative grand jury report into sexual abuse of children by priests. In a 6-1 ruling, the justice said keeping secret the names of the 11 priests was, at that point, the only way to protect the priests' constitutional right to reputation.

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