Dave Yost told reporters his office doesn't have the legal authority to investigate "matters like this."
National, state and local advocacy groups are calling on the Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost to investigate possible sex crimes within the state's six Catholic dioceses. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Ohioans for Child Protection, and Greater Cincinnati Voice of the Faithful, made the announcement during an Aug. 16 press conference at the Ohio Statehouse.
"No longer should they have a license to prey, P-R-E-Y, on our most vulnerable," said Claudia Vercellotti with SNAP.
In a letter to Yost's office, Ohioans for Child Protection points to similar investigations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Illinois.
Investigations in three nearby states
Pennsylvania's 2018 Grand Jury Report details 300 priests who were credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 children. In the report, jurors said victims' fear of coming forward could mean the number of abused children is actually in the thousands.
The Maryland Attorney General's 2023 Grand Jury Report on the Archdiocese of Baltimore found "pervasive, pernicious and persistent abuse" within the Baltimore Archdiocese, revealing that more than 150 priests had been accused of abusing more than 600 victims in the last 80 years.
The Illinois investigation, also completed in 2023, revealed claims by nearly 2,000 survivors who were sexually abused by the more than 450 Catholic clerics.
Ohioans for Child Protection told Yost that the Attorney General reports from these three states show at least 49 clerics with sexual abuse accusations have links to Ohio.
“We are asking Attorney General Yost to simply step up and get on the train of accountability and justice for victims," Vercellotti said during the press conference.
But Yost's office told reporters in a statement that, "Ohio does not grant the Attorney General’s office the legal authority to investigate matters like this."
"The General Assembly has the power to change the law, but at present, SNAP’s concerns should be addressed to local prosecutors," Yost's office said.
In a statement provided to WEWS, the Catholic Conference of Ohio said, “Every diocese in Ohio diligently maintains safe environments for all children and adults. The Catholic Church conducts background checks and on-going safe environment training for employees and volunteers.” CityBeat reached out to a spokesperson for the Cincinnati Archdiocese but did not hear back by press time.
Father Geoff Drew
In their letter to Yost, Ohioans for Child Protection said a background check did not stop the Archdiocese of Cincinnati from allowing Geoff Drew to work with children, even with a known background of abusive behavior.
"Fr. Drew had a multi-decade paper trail of red-flag pattern of behavior with children across three Ohio counties," the letter reads.
In 2021, Drew entered a guilty plea for nine counts of rape in a Hamilton County Court for raping an altar boy in his office while he was a music minister at St. Jude in Bridgetown from 1984 until 1999. The accuser was 10 when those rapes allegedly started in 1988 and continued until 1991. The Archdiocese suspended Drew on July 23, 2019, after allegations arose that he had sent inappropriate text messages to a minor.
Advocates' proposed statewide investigation could mean more victims of Drew's come forward. WXIX-TV's Jennifer Edwards Baker reported in 2019 that Drew had been employed in a number of child-facing roles over decades.
Drew’s employment and assignment overview:
Music Minister at St. Jude Parish: 1984-1999
Music Teacher at Elder High School: 1988-1991
Mount St. Mary’s Seminary of the West: 1999-2004
Internship year at St. Anthony, Madisonville: 2001-2002
Ordained priest of the Archdiocese: May 2004
Parochial Vicar at St. Luke, Beavercreek: July 1, 2004 - June 30, 2005
Pastor of St. Rita, Dayton: July 1, 2005 - June 20, 2009
Port of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Liberty Township: July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2018
Pastor of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Cincinnati: appointed July 1, 2018