Archbishop could face witness tampering

May 17, 2002 at 5:05 PM
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OMAHA, May 17 (UPI) -- Prosecutors on Friday considered witness-tampering charges against Omaha Archbishop Elden Curtiss because of a conversation he had with a kindergarten teacher who turned in a priest for allegedly viewing child pornography on a church computer.

Madison County Attorney Joe Smith said he is awaiting further police reports before filing charges against the cleric.

Curtiss issued a statement Friday denying any alleged attempt at witness tampering.

Kindergarten teacher Linda Hammond said Curtiss asked her to resign after she revealed she was the one who told police about the Rev. Robert Allgaier, who faces a charge of attempted possession of child pornography.

Hammond said Curtiss said he was "sorry" she had called police and ended the conversation with, "I'd appreciate it if you'd resign." He told the teacher the church had the situation under control and that she had ruined a man's life.

Hammond said evidence of Allgaier's alleged predilection was found by two former students at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Norfolk, Neb., in January 2001.

Court records indicate Allgaier confessed his activities to Curtiss, who removed the priest from his teaching duties at Norfolk Catholic High School, and ordered to a psychological evaluation and counseling. Later, Curtiss transferred Allgaier to St. Gerald's Catholic Church, where he was once again put into contact with children.

Hammond alerted authorities in October.

"I share her concern for children and acknowledge her dedicated professional life to the education of children," Curtiss said in a statement. "However, I felt she chose an inappropriate place and manner of approaching me."

Curtiss characterized his suggestion as a "spontaneous" emotional reaction.

Smith said he has not determined whether Curtiss' alleged remark about resigning was an attempt to dissuade Hammond from testifying, which would be required for a witness tampering charge.

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