Former priest put on probation for fondling two Georgetown Prep students

November 10, 2011

A former priest was sentenced to five years of supervised probation Thursday for fondling two students at Georgetown Preparatory School, where he taught from 1989 to 2003, as prosecutors compared the school’s initial response in the case to the scandal unfolding at Penn State University.

Garrett Orr, 58, had pleaded guilty to two counts of fourth-degree sexual offense. He acknowledged fondling a 14-year-old student in 1989 and a 15-year-old student in 2002. The first victim didn’t report the abuse until many years later, but the second victim did, in fall 2003, when he told his guidance counselor.

“The matter was passed up the chain of command, another word we’ve heard a lot of the last few days,” Montgomery Assistant State’s Attorney Donna Fenton said in court, invoking the Penn State case. “The headmaster dismissed the allegations as untrue, and the matter was not reported to the Montgomery County Police Department for seven months.”

Susan Gibbs, a spokeswoman for Georgetown Prep, said the school “looked carefully” at the allegations, starting in fall 2003, and contacted police about six months later. She said she did not know the details of how or when school officials decided to refer the case to the police.

Orr did not speak in court. His attorney, David Martella, said Orr remains “very sorry for the emotional” impact felt by the victims. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors had agreed to not ask for jail time. But Orr must register as a sex offender.

Eric Ruyak, who was groped by Orr in 2002, and his father said in interviews that they were disappointed with how certain officials at the school reacted when he came forward. The Washington Post does not typically identify abuse victims, but Ruyak agreed to be identified.

“They were not interested in dealing with Orr,” Eric Ruyak said. “They wanted it to go away.”

His father, Robert Ruyak, who served on Georgetown Prep’s board of trustees from 1994 to 2007, said certain school officials, namely two teachers, conspired to paint his son as a rumor-spreading liar.

“They tried to get him expelled from school. It was absolutely ridiculous,” Robert Ruyak said, stressing that he still supports Georgetown Prep as an institution.

Montgomery police investigated Orr in 2004 and asked Eric Ruyak to participate in a phone sting by calling Orr to get him to talk about the incident, Eric Ruyak said. He said he did not want to pursue the case at the time, and no charges initially were filed.

Gibbs said the school eventually reported the allegations to the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), who suspended Orr from the ministry and in a review “found the allegation credible,” Gibbs said. Orr was permanently removed from the ministry in 2005, Gibbs said.

The police investigation involving Orr and Ruyak sat dormant. Then last year, the victim abused in 1989 reported the incidents, and Orr was arrested in January.

Martella indicated in court that Eric Ruyak had credibility problems among students and teachers at the school, and that this probably played a factor in prosecutors not taking the case to trial.

The Rev. Michael J. Marco, president of the school sent a statement to families Thursday: “I ask for your prayers, especially for the two men who came forward . . . Georgetown Prep is committed to providing a safe environment for our students.”

Read more stories on Crime Scene

Post staff writer Dan Morse covers courts and crime in Montgomery County, Md.
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