Priest not guilty in Midway Airport sex-abuse case
BY MITCH DUDEK AND STEFANO ESPOSITO Staff Reporters September 16, 2013 6:24PM
The Rev. Bede Jagoe, acquitted in a Midway Airport sex-abuse case, attended Monday's one-day trial at the Leighton Criminal Court building on a gurney because he is ill. | Mitch Dudek~Sun-Times
Updated: October 18, 2013 6:25AM
A 79-year-old Roman Catholic priest was found not guilty Monday of inappropriately touching and kissing a traveling businessman from Kansas City who’d stopped into a chapel at Midway Airport to grieve the death of a friend during a layover.
The Rev. Bede R. Jagoe was accused of touching the man’s groin with a finger in the interfaith chapel at Midway and kissing the man and grabbing his groin in an elevator minutes later on Dec. 11, 2011.
Judge Nicholas Ford found Jagoe, who attended his one-day bench trial in a gurney due to ill health, not guilty of criminal sexual abuse and aggravated battery on the public way.
The 61-year-old Kansas City man testified that Jagoe poked him in the groin with a finger as the two chatted in the second-floor chapel after mass, an act he thought, initially, was accidental.
Several minutes later, when the men were alone in an elevator, Jagoe “came up to me and grabbed my groin . . . and kissed me on the mouth,” he said. “He grabbed me very hard. I had a lot of pain for a couple of days.”
Ford said several factors that cast reasonable doubt on the story lead him to rule not guilty.
Chief among them was the fact that the accuser did not report the incident to any of the numerous law enforcement agents who work at Midway in the approximately 40 minutes between when it was alleged to have occurred and when he boarded a flight home.
The man’s wife notified Chicago police two and half hours later when her husband broke down crying and told her the story in their Kansas City home, the wife testified.
Assistant State’s Attorney Tami Strickman said the man delayed notifying authorities because he was in shock and wasn’t positive what had occurred was illegal.
The judge also questioned why surveillance video aired in court showed the men hugging and briefly holding hands in the chapel after the priest allegedly touched his groin. Video footage also showed the man chatting with Jagoe and following him into an elevator after leaving the chapel.
In making his decision, the judge also pointed to testimony from the man about being kissed by the priest that contradicted statements he made to police indicating the priest “attempted” to kiss him.
Jagoe, a priest who serves in the order of Dominican Friars, declined to comment after the trial.
Rev. Charles E. Bouchard, Prior Provincial of the Dominican Friars Central Province in Chicago, said in a statement issued after the verdict: “We take allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously, but there are instances of false or unsubstantiated claims. We’re glad that in this case Father Jagoe’s name was cleared by the court. There was a rush to judgement at the time, that is understandable but unfair in this case as the court found him to be not guilty.”
Bill Skowronski, a spokesman for the Dominican Friars Central Province, said at the time of the allegations, Jagoe was retired and assigned to limited service at Midway Airport. Jagoe, who was ordained in 1960, was removed from ministry immediately when charges were filed and stripped of his rites to celebrate sacrament any where in the Order, per the Order’s national policy.
In the wake of the not guilty ruling, “he is reinstated as a priest in good standing,” Skowronski said.
Contributing: Francine Knowles