WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — District Attorney Marc Bennett does not plan to charge a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita who was under investigation for alleged sexual abuse of a minor. In a news release, the DA’s office said the statute of limitations does not allow it. Bennett would not comment on whether the case had merit worthy of charges, however he said the allegations did not involve any physical contact with a child.
Back in November, the diocese placed the Rev. Michael Schemm, Church of the Resurrection, on administrative leave following the allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. According to the diocese, Bishop Carl Kemme announced Schemm’s leave came after an initial review by the Diocesan Review Board, which recommended the leave, while a full investigation was conducted.
Bennett said someone made the report to the diocese on behalf of an alleged victim. Before placing Schemm on leave, the diocese forwarded the case to the DA’s office which sent it to the Exploited and Missing Child Unit to investigate.
The allegations were reported to have occurred when Schemm was serving at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Wichita between 1993 and 1996. At that time, the reported victim would have been between 12 and 15 years of age. The reported victim would now be 40 years of age.
The diocese confirmed that Schemm was appointed to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton between June of 1993 and July of 1996. The diocese also provided Schemm’s subsequent employment history. After leaving St. Elizabeth’s, he has been continually employed in parishes in the Wichita diocese which covers the southeast quadrant of the state.
In 1994, the Kansas legislature amended the five-year statute of limitations set forth in K.S.A. 21-3106 (the statute prior to 2011 when it was changed to K.S.A. 21-5107) to allow the statute to be “tolled” (not counted) if certain factors existed in certain crimes where the victim was under the age of 15. However, the legislative change made clear that “in no event” could a crime be charged after the victim turned “28 years of age.”
These changes went into effect July 1, 1994. Other exceptions to the 5-year statute of limitations in Kansas in 1994 included any period of time when the suspect was voluntarily absent from the state of Kansas.
The reporting party in this situation reported the incident to the diocese on behalf of the alleged victim. The behavior alleged by the reporting party did not involve any allegation of physical touching.
The 1995 version of K.S.A. 21-3516 Sexual Exploitation of a Child, included in the definition of the crime, “inducing,” or “coercing” a child under 16 to engage in … “exhibition in the nude.” The statute of limitations on this crime would have expired not later than 2001.
Because of the age of the alleged victim, any exceptions to the statute of limitations would have expired when the victim turned 28, in 2009.
Also, because Shemm has resided continually in Kansas, the statute of limitations would not have “tolled” under that exception to the statute.
Bennett said, “… the prosecution of any alleged crime in this situation would be time-barred. This is a legal conclusion only. No commentary or conclusions are offered as to the relative merit of the
KSN reached out to the diocese Office of Communications for a response to the DA’s decision.
Matthew Vainer, the spokesperson for the diocese, sent KSN this statement: “In accordance with our protocols, the Catholic Diocese of Wichita notified law enforcement of the allegation made and cooperated in its investigation. It is the Diocese’s understanding that law enforcement completed its investigation and closed the case based on the nature of the allegation and the applicable statute of limitations. The Diocese is currently finishing its own investigation, which will likely be completed in the near future.”
Schemm’s assignments in the diocese:
- St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Wichita – Assistant Pastor: 6/21/93 – 7/10/96
- St. Patrick, Parsons – Pastor: 7/11/96 – 6/27/01
- Christ the King, Wichita – Pastor: 6/28/01 – 7/1/07
- St. James, Augusta – Pastor: 7/02/07 – 6/18/18
- Church of the Resurrection, Wichita – Pastor: 6/19/18 – Present
The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has asked that anyone who has been the victim of sexual misconduct by members of the clergy, report it to the KBI by calling 1-800-KS-CRIME (1-800-572-7463) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
People can report abuse to the Wichita Diocese victim’s assistance coordinator by calling 316-440-1757.