Dallas priest molester Rudy Kos living in San Diego

San Diego was kind of a dumping ground

— I make a call to the San Diego Police Department's Sex Crimes Unit. "Have you ever heard of a priest named Rudy Kos? He's accused of molesting 11 boys - most of them altar boys - in Dallas, Texas. He's here."

"No, I never heard of this guy," says Sergeant Joanne Archambault.

For a moment I wonder if she's saying this because "Megan's Law," which will allow law enforcement to disclose information on certain sex offenders, doesn't come into effect until July 1. (The 1994 rape-murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka in New Jersey prompted the law, which is gradually being adopted by many states.) Everyone in Dallas, Texas, knows Kos lives in San Diego. For weeks, reports have appeared daily in the Dallas Morning News of a civil suit filed against him by the 11 young men - though one, who committed suicide in 1992, is represented by his parents. Allegations of sexual abuse. Eleven boys. Over 11 years.

The Reverend Rudolph E. Kos, 52, has been living in San Diego for the past three and a half years. Kos is a Roman Catholic priest who entered the USD graduate-level paralegal certificate program in February 1994. He now works as a freelance paralegal. According to the plaintiffs, the abuse took place at various Dallas church rectories between 1981 and 1992. According to the Dallas Morning News, Kos has moved often but currently lives "across the street from a Catholic church, a block from an elementary school...near downtown San Diego." Even though the civil trial is not over, Kos has already been found liable for the sexual abuse of the boys because he never responded to the $146.5 million civil suit they filed against him and the Dallas Diocese of the Catholic Church.

The current trial is only the first. A criminal trial is expected later in the summer. And a third proceeding, an ecclesiastical one, is also pending.

Could children be in danger in his San Diego neighborhood? "Oh, absolutely," says Tom Economus, president of Linkup, a Chicago-based organization for victims of clergy abuse. "There's no question in my mind. Given Rudy Kos's track record, I think they're in danger."

"This man is an opportunistic predator," says Sylvia Demarest, one of the Dallas lawyers representing three of the boys he allegedly abused. "He has had a psychosexual disorder since way before he entered the priesthood. From the very beginning of his tenure as a priest, he set up his quarters in the rectory [in North Dallas] as a playground for children. He had video games, all the fancy new electronic equipment that boys like to play with. He had candy. He bought them food, expensive gifts, and [boys] spent the night with him in his personal quarters, virtually every night, for the 11 years that he was a priest. This was totally and completely inappropriate."

Demarest says the experience that Kos put the boys through (according to her clients' allegations), from having them masturbate him with their feet to fondling to oral sex to anal sex to the supplying of alcohol and drugs, has proved traumatic to all of them. "[This experience] will prevent them from maturing.... During adolescence there are certain paths that you have to go through to develop your sexuality properly so you can become a mature, responsible adult. Well, Kos just absolutely destroyed that in these kids. Some of them are [still] adolescents," says Demarest. "They may be in an adult body, but they've got the emotional reaction of a child. We've got serious substance-abuse problems in almost all these kids. We've got terrible problems in terms of finishing their education, in their being able to get responsible jobs and keep them. We've got terrible problems with relationships. We've got terrible problems with sexual performance. And of course we have a tremendous risk that they'll become perpetrators themselves. They were absolutely traumatically bonded to Kos. To these young kids, these priests [like Kos] were their human form of God. They don't think that the priest is doing anything wrong. The kid thinks there's got to be something wrong with him."

The problem is, nobody seems to know where Rudy Kos is. Or if they do, they don't want to tell.

"Rudy? He's very charming. Very nice. He's very outgoing," says Carol J. Colver, who was Rudy's landlady until early last summer. "Rudy rented from me for maybe a year and a half. It's been a year, almost, since he left. He was an excellent tenant. The rent was always paid on time. And what was unique about Rudy was that he has the ability to fix electricals and plumbing, and he would just take care of things in the condominium that needed to be repaired. Without charging me."

Colver, an intensive care unit nurse, met Kos when her tenant, a fellow icu nurse she doesn't want to name, asked if Kos could share the Hillcrest condo with him. "I knew nothing of [Kos's] past. I didn't require references from him," says Colver. "I rented it to him because I happened to work with his roommate. I wouldn't know how to reach Rudy today. I can just tell you that he was a great tenant and went above and beyond and was always very pleasant to be around."

When I press her, she says Kos's roommate has told her, "Rudy does not want to speak with the press at this point in time."

"I have instructed Mr. Kos not to make any more comments to the press," Brad Lollar, a well-known Dallas lawyer who'll defend Kos in the upcoming criminal trial, told me when I called asking for Kos's phone number.

Lollar was trying to contain the fallout from a spontaneous phone call Kos had made to the Dallas Morning News at the end of last month. "This [accusation]," Kos told the paper, "has been boiling and boiling and boiling in me. I haven't had the chance to say my piece since this started."

Kos painted a self-portrait of someone who knew he'd done wrong but felt betrayed by his church. This despite the fact the church paid for more than a year of treatment at a Catholic center for sexually troubled priests in New Mexico (which Kos claimed had cured him). "They have an obligation to me," he told the News, "to take care of me for life.... Once a priest, always a priest."

"I always liked Rudy," says Bob, who runs the Postal Convenience Center on El Cajon Boulevard and Louisiana. I'd hoped this address would turn out to be Reverend Kos's apartment. Instead it's just a dropbox.

Bob tells me he became suspicious when great reams of legal documents started flowing in addressed to Kos. "I knew something mysterious was going on in his life," says Bob. "That's pretty obvious when somebody's getting mail like that constantly...."

Richard Kos Jr.'s voice is a little crackly. He's talking from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "It's been 11 years since I've seen my uncle," he says. "It was a family reunion. Down in Texas. Yeah, he's likable. He's a very intelligent person. But as far as the [molestation charges] go, I don't know much about that."

Then Richard Jr. describes a cold, unstable family upbringing for his dad, Richard Sr., and uncles Tom and Rudy. "Their mother left them when my dad was five. They were sent to an orphanage. And then my grandfather remarried and got the kids back. I know it left a mark on my dad. Rudy was two years older. He kind of ruled the roost. My dad, I haven't spoken to him for years because I knew the things he was into. I knew he would end up in jail. He has. Selling crystal meth."

Both of Rudy's brothers, Richard Sr. and Tom, testified by videotape at the civil trial that their older brother the priest had sexually assaulted them when they were growing up.

Tom Economus of Linkup, who himself grew up being abused by a priest, says the danger of Rudy Kos lies in his intelligence and charm. "My experience has taught me that most pedophiles are very bright, very intelligent, and very charismatic. Which is how they get to these children. They zero in on children from broken homes or from homes with family problems or who are very insecure. And then all of a sudden the Reverend Father becomes the great salvation to this child, and at the same time it's a manipulation, a course of action which is being set up by him which then goes into the molestation.

"The Roman Catholic Church is so sexophobic. They just do not talk about sex. They don't even have healthy parameters for discussions about sex. Along with that, when you have a celibate structure, it's a great hiding place for pedophiles. And that has happened more and more. The Catholic Church would like to say, 'It's only a small percentage that have snuck in.' Well, I have enough data in my database to prove that it's 10 percent - that we know of! - of the priesthood."

Economus says it gets worse. "There are 188 dioceses in the [U.S.] Roman Catholic Church: every single one of them has been nailed with multiple [abuse] lawsuits. At one time there were six or seven priests who all ended up in San Diego that had allegations of child abuse against them. For the longest time we always thought that San Diego was kind of a dumping ground, nationally."

Economus says the Church's M.O. is to settle nearly all cases. "Only 5 percent of these cases ever make it to trial," he says. Even so, in the last 12 years, he claims, the Church has paid out over $600 million, just in the 5 percent of lawsuits, with pending cases threatening to exceed another $500 million. Some 200-plus priests, he says, have been imprisoned over the last 15 years for sex offenses. "And still the Church doesn't do anything to address the problem. It just amazes me. If it was ibm or Xerox, it would have been handled and fixed in months!"

Kos told the Dallas Morning News he shares a one-bedroom apartment here with a 38-year-old man but says he's celibate. "I haven't had sex in two years," he was reported as saying. He also said that the San Diego chapter of Dignity, an organization of gay Catholics not recognized by the Church, had offered him the chance to say Mass. He turned them down, but "if they asked me again, I probably would."

Mike Bekemeier, president of Dignity San Diego, says he has never heard of Rudy Kos in his five-year involvement with the group. "I'm pretty sure he hasn't been asked - at least officially - by the San Diego chapter."

I've given up trying to find Rudy Kos. But shouldn't the police be keeping an eye on him? "There are 70,000 sex offenders in California, 4800 in San Diego County," says Archambault of sdpd's Sex Crimes Unit. "All of them have to register. The ones that we will disclose to the public [after Megan's Law takes effect July 1] are 'high risk' and 'serious' categories. But right now, Rudy Kos isn't any of them. He hasn't even been proven guilty yet! The community might suspect, or the church might have defrocked him, but until he's proven guilty in a criminal court, he's not required to register with me. In this country, he's still innocent."

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