The Associated Press, July 24, 1999

Magistrate to decide on extradition of Catholic school teacher

NEWARK -- A federal magistrate will consider additional evidence before deciding whether to extradite a former Catholic school teacher to Canada to face charges of beating teens at a Newfoundland orphanage in the late Fifties.

At issue is whether the charges against Brother Thomas Cuthbert Ford warrant extradition. Under the treaty between Canada and the United States, the crime must be punishable by more than a year in prison in both countries.

"At this point, I've got grave concern over whether or not there is an adequate definition that these crimes qualify under the extradition treaty," U.S. Magistrate Stanley R. Chesler said at a hearing Thursday. Another hearing is to be scheduled.

Ford's lawyer Edward N. Fitzpatrick argued that Ford is charged in Canada with common assault, a crime punishable by only six months in New Jersey.

He maintained that the charges were minor crimes that happened when corporal punishment was an accepted part of Catholic education.

"I went to parochial school in 1956 and I don't recall anyone ever ending up in Ramsey Municipal Court," Fitzpatrick said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Russel N. Jacobson, representing the federal government, said the most serious charge against Ford is comparable to child abuse and child neglect, which would expose the teacher to 10 years in prison here.

"It's absolutely clear the defendant's conduct falls within the scope of this treaty," Jacobson said.

The chief investigator in the case agreed.

"But it's more than common assault. We've got assault causing bodily harm," said Sgt. Mark Wall of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, reached Friday at his base in St. John's. He said that offense carries a sentence of more than 10 years in Canada.

Ford faces that charge regarding the beating of a teenager, Edmund Hartery, who was left unconscious in an orphanage shower. Authorities say Ford hit him with his fists and belt.

Ford, 64, is a member of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious order.

He surfaced this spring after vanishing three years ago from his job teaching math at Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell. Ford disappeared after he was indicted on charges that he assaulted nine children at the Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John's. He taught at the New Jersey school for 10 years.

The first reports of abuse at Mount Cashel reached Newfoundland police in 1975, but a senior investigator intervened and the probe ended.

The case was reopened in 1989 when the Canadian federal government ordered a full investigation. Examiners found evidence that officials helped cover up allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

The inquiry has led to the conviction of more than nine members or former members of the Christian Brothers, as well as a half-dozen others, for beatings or sexual abuse, Wall said. No officials were convicted for a coverup.

Ford remains free on bond.

Neither Fitzpatrick nor Jacobson immediately returned messages Friday seeking comment.

Copyright 1999 Bergen Record Corp.

Return to Newsroom Index or to Table of Contents