San Diego Why is Roman Catholic priest Rudolph Kos, a.k.a. Rudy Edward, a.k.a. Father Rudy, whom a Dallas jury found liable for sexually abusing 11 boys, able to live without supervision near an elementary school in downtown's Little Italy?
On July 24, 11 plaintiffs in John Does 1P11 vs. Kos and Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas won a $120 million judgment against Father Kos and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas. The judgment is the largest sum ever paid in a clergy-abuse case. The civil jury ordered the diocese to pay compensation for "gross negligence" in its handling of Kos. The plaintiffs claim the church allowed Father Kos between 1981 and 1992 to victimize young male parishioners under the protection of a "centuries-old practice of concealment" by the church's clergy.
On May 7, 1996, in a Dallas court, Kos, 52, was also indicted on criminal charges of indecency with a child and sexual assault by contact. Dallas's first assistant district attorney, Norman Kinne, says each charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. An initial hearing for Kos's trial has been set for September 15 in Dallas, Texas, where the alleged offenses took place in three parishes to which Father Kos was assigned. Though Kos technically remains a priest, since late 1993 he has been barred from carrying out priestly duties.
For nearly four years Kos has been living and working in San Diego. Currently he lives on State Street, across from Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church and 500 feet from Washington Elementary School, where kindergarten through sixth graders play in the streets or tag after the bell of the ice-cream truck.
Little Italy neighbors appear unaware of Father Kos, his history, or the judgment recently leveled against the diocese of Dallas. "He hasn't been convicted in a criminal court," explains Lieutenant Jim Barker, in charge of sdpd's sex crimes unit. "We're not bound by any civil action. We have no reason to track him down, find out where he lives, or to notify neighbors. We won't do that. Am I concerned? We have concerns about a lot of folks, but we can't act illegally."
Only by chance does sdpd even know Kos is in town. "We were advised a couple of months ago," says Barker. "A reporter from Dallas was following the story and came out here and talked to us about it. That's when we first became aware."
Why didn't Dallas cops notify San Diego? "I don't think we have any obligation so long as it's only an accusation and [Kos] hasn't been convicted," says Kinne, speaking by phone from Dallas.
Megan's Law, which has allowed law enforcement since July 1 to disclose information to the public on the location of certain sex offenders, doesn't apply to the suspended Dallas priest, according to the sdpd's Barker. Part of the provision of Megan's Law is a CD/ROM disk detailing names of convicted sex offenders. "Megan's Law is only going to have felons [convicted] here in California on it," says Barker. "Occasionally if we have someone from another state who is required to register, we can get him on there. But here's an individual who has never been convicted [in a criminal court]. So he has no requirement to register. That's an issue that you always have concerns about, [but] we have no indication that he's responsible for any crimes here. And even with Megan's Law, the intent of that is not for law enforcement to follow people."
How was Kos, with criminal indictments against him and a criminal trial ahead of him, allowed to leave the state of Texas? "I believe he's out on two $5000 bonds," says Kinne. "The only obligation he has is to appear in court on September 15. Other than that, he can go to Timbuktu if he wants to." Kos's lawyer, Brad Lollar, confirms Kos paid "10 to 15 percent" of the $10,000 bond to Fast Action Bonding of Dallas, Texas.
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"Hello?" says a male voice.
"I'm from the Reader and want to have Mr. Rudy Edward tell his side of the story," I say into the intercom. I've pressed the black button next to a row of mailboxes. They guard a grilled gate outside apartments that look across to Our Lady of the Rosary.
This is the result of a tip from an anonymous reader who, "responding to my conscience," offered Kos's address. Her call followed the June 19 story in the Reader ("Rudy? He's Very Charming") revealing that Kos, using the last name Edward, had been living in San Diego since early 1994.
"He's not available right now," says the voice in the box. "I have no idea where he's at. I have no comment on anything. I'm not disclosing my name either."
When I ask when Mr. Edward will be back, the voice says, "I told you! I have no idea where he's at."
It's not surprising Kos is lying low. On the Thursday the Reader story appeared, Kos, as usual, walked to his job as a paralegal at the law firm of Shifflet, Walters, Kane & Konoske at 750 B Street. A partner and the office manager asked to see him. Ten minutes later, Kos was fired.
"After the [Reader] article came out," says Doug Walters, one of the firm's partners, "we mutually agreed that it would be better for him to go somewhere else."
Walters says Kos was with the firm only "about four weeks" and seemed to be a good paralegal. "The limited duties that he was given he seemed to perform well. He was primarily reviewing records." (Kos entered the usd graduate-level paralegal certificate program in February 1994, paying "around $3800" in tuition, according to the paralegal program's director Sue Sullivan.)
Walters says Kos came to the firm after responding to a help-wanted ad in the San Diego Transcript. "He did give us some references from [San Diego] places where he'd worked previously, and we checked those out, and they all had favorable things to say about him. He had done some contract paralegal work, and he had worked at one firm here for a period of about a year and a half or so."
Did they check Kos's record before hiring him? "First of all, he gave us a different name [Rudy Edward rather than Rudy Kos]. We did check civil and criminal indexes here in California and also references from places where he had worked previously, and they all checked out. And yes, he had a pleasing personality."
There's some regret in Walters's voice. Then he laughs. "It's not funny. It's a tragic situation. It was a shock, to say the least."
Christina Starr, who is part owner with her husband in the State Street apartments, has never met Kos, "[but] he's been a very quiet person and pays his rent," she says. And yes, she had heard the buzz. "I didn't give much weight to it, actually, because we never got any legal [evidence] from anybody. He's been a very good tenant. I get real angry with the sensationalism that the media does with most everything. We never heard anything from the police, and they certainly were [in a position to tell us]."
"He's a danger on your streets," insists Tom Economus, a victim of a pedophile priest in his own childhood and now president of Linkup, a Chicago-based organization for victims of clergy abuse. Father Economus is a priest in the Independent Catholic Church, a branch that broke away in 1870 over the issue of papal infallibility. "There is no cure for pedophilia," says Economus. "The American Psychiatric Association tells us that. If he were in ongoing treatment and was going in every week for shots of Depo Provera [progesterone used to diminish male sex drive], that would lower the risk of him [striking again], but you just don't know."
Worse, says Economus, the greater the pressures on the molester, the greater the risk to children. "Many of these men who were sex abusers come out of jail, and the next level that they go to is abusing a child and then murdering the child. The hatred has built up. We have seen that happen far too many times. When you're under scrutiny [as Kos is], and you've just lost this case, and you're coming up for a [criminal] trial case, and 11 victims have come forward, that's an incredible amount of pressure, and you just never know if the pressure is so overwhelming that someone would snap."
Economus says a basic problem is the law. Or laws. "You've got 50 states, and they've all got 50 different laws. The trouble with Megan's Law is it only applies to those who have been convicted. We need some kind of federal law that protects our kids! Against possible perpetrators, people who have had allegations brought against themI. I know we're on real shaky ground with civil rights, but in these specific cases like Rudy Kos's, something should be done. The person needs to be put someplace [out of society] until they have their day in court. Right now, the laws protect the perpetrators and not the victims. And the victims happen to be our children."
"Sexual abuse is happening in about one in four homes across the country," says Melissa Knight-Fine of the Sacramento-based Legislative Coalition to Prevent Child Abuse. The largest single category, she says, is stepfathers abusing their stepdaughters. But teachers, scoutmasters, and priests who target children tend to have multiple, "often hundreds" of victims.
Knight-Fine says an important law went into force January 1 mandating that clergy report child abuse to law enforcement. And since 1994, it has been possible to lift statutes of limitations where sexual abuse is strongly suspected. "This is important because so many abusers silence children by threatening to kill them or saying the child's mother will kill herself if she ever found out," says Knight-Fine. "So the victims don't have the courage to speak out till they grow up - past the six-year statute of limitations."
Knight-Fine feels the Roman Catholic Church should take prime responsibility for Father Kos. "They can't just wash their hands of it when you have children endangered. In the past they have actually continued to support priests who have abused children. Has the [diocese] actively attempted to assure that [San Diego] children are not in danger of being hurt? It's a very, very powerful church. They certainly have resources to ensure that Father Kos isn't in contact with children. Are they taking responsibility?"
The diocese of San Diego sees it differently. "If he's here, he's here as a private citizen," says Bernadeane Carr, the San Diego diocesan spokesperson. "He has not contacted the diocese. The diocese has not contacted him. That's the information that we have."
But with children's lives at stake, does the local diocese feel any responsibility for this errant priest? Carr allows a long silence. "It would be a question of whether there is any legal responsibility, and then if there is any canonical responsibility. Those would be the two questions that would need to be answered." Carr promised to ask church lawyers about the local diocese's responsibilities but had not responded by press time.
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"I'm not a hardened criminal," Kos told the Dallas Morning News on May 25 when he spoke about the prospect of going to prison. He feared inmates would kill him. "I'd be absolutely defenseless."
"Our penitentiary system takes precautions to protect certain types of offenders," says Dallas's first assistant district attorney Kinne, "and everyone who goes to the penitentiary for child abuse doesn't end up dead. I don't think that'll happen."
Economus is afraid Kos will commit suicide. "Last year I worked with 26 victims in the [Father] Ted Llanos case up in Long Beach. On December 30, 1996, the police were on their way to arrest him, when he committed suicide. His mind was absolutely tortured. The church cut him off, they discontinued his treatment, he had 26 victims coming after him, where else could he go?"
Economus isn't optimistic for people like Kos. "I'm hoping that people in the mental health field can come to some conclusion on this. They keep saying that if you castrate [offenders] and keep them on Depo Provera and in intense therapy in an ongoing process, that you continue to lower the risk. That's treating the symptoms, but we have to get to the problem."
And what is the problem? Even Economus has no idea.
"I think it's part nature, part nurture. I hope the mental health people begin to look at it. But at this point there's no cure for it."
Kos himself agrees. "If I was a fixated pedophile," he told the Dallas Morning News on May 25, "I'd deserve to be put to death. They're incurable."
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The intercom beneath the State Street apartments has stopped responding. I give up and cross State Street just in time to see an elderly priest disappear into Our Lady of the Rosary's church hall. When I ask Father Louis Mary Solcia about Father Kos, he says he doesn't know.
"Probably the diocese knows," he says. "Maybe the bishop, [but] I don't think so. He never came to church. I saw the face in the picture in [your] paper, and I don't recall [seeing] it. And I'm here in the church all the time."
Father Solcia says no one from the Dallas diocese has called about Father Kos. Priests like Father Kos, he says, "they move out. They move away. They disappear. Vanish."