A former Oklahoma priest has been charged with sexual assault against a minor in Evanston, Illinois. Evanston Police say Kenneth Lewis assaulted a 13-year-old Tulsa boy at hotel in that town in late 2001.
Lewis was visiting Illinois from Tulsa with the victim and his family when the assault allegedly occurred, according to the CBS affiliate in Chicago.
The incident wasn’t reported for another three years, according to Evanston Police.
“Lewis could not be charged as part of this initial investigation,” according to a news release from Evanston Police.
A warrant was issued for his arrest in December 2017 following a reopened investigation by the Cook County State’s Attorney and Evanston Police.
"The victim had to wait a long time for an arrest," said Commander Ryan Glew with Evanston Police. "Even given a couple years and being a little older, 16-17 years old when the crime it was reported, it took a lot of bravery."
Lewis had been in Ecuador, and was arrested upon his return to the U.S. on May 9 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, police said. He is charged with predatory sexual assault of a child.
A judge May 19 ordered Lewis held on $100,000 bond. He posted bail and was released from custody the same day.
According to an Associated Press story published in July, 2002, Lewis was allowed to remain on the job in Oklahoma in spite of accusations of inappropriate behavior with several boys in the early 1990s.
In an interview with News On 6 in 2002, "Father Ken" said his demonstration of caring had been grossly misinterpreted.
"To one observer, my caring was too personal, and we discussed it at length and I was cleared and I have never had any sexual contact with any young person," he said. "I have never done anything to be considered sexual contact or molestation."
Lewis had been sent to treatment in 1994 by Bishop Edward Slattery of the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa. The Chicago Sun Times reports that as many as six victims came forward with complaints against Lewis, but he was not charged because the statute of limitations in the cases had expired.
Lewis served at St. John Catholic Church in McAlester after treatment then in 2007 became the first pastor in the Tulsa Diocese to become laicized - or prohibited from further work as a pastor.
In 2009, a person identified as "John Doe" sued Lewis, Slattery and the Diocese of Tulsa in civil court for breach of fiduciary duty, failure to warn, failure to investigate, negligent retention, negligent supervision, battery, two counts of fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
That case was settled in 2011.
In a statement, the Catholic Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma points to a 2002 article written by Bishop Edward Slattery, titled "I apologize from the bottom of my heart," where he publicly responds to allegations of sexual abuse by Lewis. You can read the full statement and article below: