York County DA: No files or records found on 1995 alleged clergy abuse case

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YORK, Pa. --- The day after the grand jury report on child sex abuse within six Catholic Diocese was released, the York County District Attorney's Office announced it would investigate information released in the report.

The report says in 1995, The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg turned over an alleged child sex abuse case against a former priest, Herbert Shank, to the York County District Attorney's Office.

The diocese confirmed to FOX43 News in July the case was turned over in February of that year.

The report says evidence turned over included photographic negatives and videotape cassettes of alleged abuse.

In the report, it also quotes the following:

"In 2017, agents from the Office of Attorney General spoke with the York City Police Department regarding the 1995 report. An officer who was not working on the case, but familiar with it, stated Shank recorded television shows on VHS tapes. Shank then recorded himself assaulting young boys. Shank preserved his assaultive recordings on VHS tape spliced in the middle of recorded shows. The officer state the victim made it clear he would not testify and that the Diocese of Harrisburg shipped Shank out of the area."

On July 31, FOX43 spoke with Herbert Shank.

He said the following, in part, regarding his case:

"It was handled totally properly. Things were turned over. I was told I had to get my own lawyer, the diocese had no connection with me on this level, at least on that level and they asked if I would go to therapy which I accepted," said Shank.

Shank said he never had a conversation with the York County District Attorney's Office or anyone from law enforcement regarding his case.

"If they spoke with anyone they spoke with my lawyer, I guess?" said Shank, at the time.

The York County District Attorney's Office says alongside the York City Police Department, a search was conducted for files or records about the case.

In a statement Wednesday, they determined any evidence or report forwarded to the York City Police Department was destroyed in accordance with "statewide accreditation standards governing investigations where no charges are filed."

FOX43 tried to get clarity on what the standard is but officials with the York City Police and PA Chiefs of Police Association were not readily available for comment.

District Attorney David Sunday also says in the statement his office does not have any records concerning information released in the grand jury report and any such report would have been purged due to the office record retention policy in matters that aren't prosecuted.

Officials with the York County District Attorney's Office said the current policy, which was updated in 2017 after its establishment in 2016, purges files on "childline referrals" five years after a decision is made not to press charges.

If charges are filed and a suspect is sentenced in a childline referral case, the files are purged in accordance with the length of the sentence.

The minimum would be five years.

However, it is unclear what the archive retention policy was for the York County District Attorney's Office in 1995, as officials with the York County Archives said the district attorney's office did not archive with them during that time.

A spokesperson with the Diocese of Harrisburg says the church apologizes for "mistakes that were made" and it is "unfortunate Herbert Shank's case was not investigated properly."

The diocese says it will continue to work with law enforcement in reporting abuse case as soon as possible.

The York County District Attorney's Office says it and other law enforcement will continue to investigate allegations of sex abuse, including allegations against York County clergy identified in the grand jury report.

There is a tipline for receiving any information concerning clergy abuse in York County and/or offenses referenced in or associated with the grand jury report.

You are asked to email "DAtips@yorkcountypa.gov"

Officials with the York County District Attorney's Office says it is looking into strengthening current childline referrals retention policy, as a result of information released in the report.

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