San Diego I make a call to the San Diego Police Department's Sex Crimes Unit. "Have you ever heard of a priest named Rudy Kos? He's accused of molesting 11 boys - most of them altar boys - in Dallas, Texas. He's here."
"No, I never heard of this guy," says Sergeant Joanne Archambault.
For a moment I wonder if she's saying this because "Megan's Law," which will allow law enforcement to disclose information on certain sex offenders, doesn't come into effect until July 1. (The 1994 rape-murder of seven-year-old Megan Kanka in New Jersey prompted the law, which is gradually being adopted by many states.) Everyone in Dallas, Texas, knows Kos lives in San Diego. For weeks, reports have appeared daily in the Dallas Morning News of a civil suit filed against him by the 11 young men - though one, who committed suicide in 1992, is represented by his parents. Allegations of sexual abuse. Eleven boys. Over 11 years.
The Reverend Rudolph E. Kos, 52, has been living in San Diego for the past three and a half years. Kos is a Roman Catholic priest who entered the USD graduate-level paralegal certificate program in February 1994. He now works as a freelance paralegal. According to the plaintiffs, the abuse took place at various Dallas church rectories between 1981 and 1992. According to the Dallas Morning News, Kos has moved often but currently lives "across the street from a Catholic church, a block from an elementary school...near downtown San Diego." Even though the civil trial is not over, Kos has already been found liable for the sexual abuse of the boys because he never responded to the $146.5 million civil suit they filed against him and the Dallas Diocese of the Catholic Church.
The current trial is only the first. A criminal trial is expected later in the summer. And a third proceeding, an ecclesiastical one, is also pending.
Could children be in danger in his San Diego neighborhood? "Oh, absolutely," says Tom Economus, president of Linkup, a Chicago-based organization for victims of clergy abuse. "There's no question in my mind. Given Rudy Kos's track record, I think they're in danger."
"This man is an opportunistic predator," says Sylvia Demarest, one of the Dallas lawyers representing three of the boys he allegedly abused. "He has had a psychosexual disorder since way before he entered the priesthood. From the very beginning of his tenure as a priest, he set up his quarters in the rectory [in North Dallas] as a playground for children. He had video games, all the fancy new electronic equipment that boys like to play with. He had candy. He bought them food, expensive gifts, and [boys] spent the night with him in his personal quarters, virtually every night, for the 11 years that he was a priest. This was totally and completely inappropriate."
Demarest says the experience that Kos put the boys through (according to her clients' allegations), from having them masturbate him with their feet to fondling to oral sex to anal sex to the supplying of alcohol and drugs, has proved traumatic to all of them. "[This experience] will prevent them from maturing.... During adolescence there are certain paths that you have to go through to develop your sexuality properly so you can become a mature, responsible adult. Well, Kos just absolutely destroyed that in these kids. Some of them are [still] adolescents," says Demarest. "They may be in an adult body, but they've got the emotional reaction of a child. We've got serious substance-abuse problems in almost all these kids. We've got terrible problems in terms of finishing their education, in their being able to get responsible jobs and keep them. We've got terrible problems with relationships. We've got terrible problems with sexual performance. And of course we have a tremendous risk that they'll become perpetrators themselves. They were absolutely traumatically bonded to Kos. To these young kids, these priests [like Kos] were their human form of God. They don't think that the priest is doing anything wrong. The kid thinks there's got to be something wrong with him."
The problem is, nobody seems to know where Rudy Kos is. Or if they do, they don't want to tell.
"Rudy? He's very charming. Very nice. He's very outgoing," says Carol J. Colver, who was Rudy's landlady until early last summer. "Rudy rented from me for maybe a year and a half. It's been a year, almost, since he left. He was an excellent tenant. The rent was always paid on time. And what was unique about Rudy was that he has the ability to fix electricals and plumbing, and he would just take care of things in the condominium that needed to be repaired. Without charging me."
Colver, an intensive care unit nurse, met Kos when her tenant, a fellow icu nurse she doesn't want to name, asked if Kos could share the Hillcrest condo with him. "I knew nothing of [Kos's] past. I didn't require references from him," says Colver. "I rented it to him because I happened to work with his roommate. I wouldn't know how to reach Rudy today. I can just tell you that he was a great tenant and went above and beyond and was always very pleasant to be around."
When I press her, she says Kos's roommate has told her, "Rudy does not want to speak with the press at this point in time."
"I have instructed Mr. Kos not to make any more comments to the press," Brad Lollar, a well-known Dallas lawyer who'll defend Kos in the upcoming criminal trial, told me when I called asking for Kos's phone number.
Lollar was trying to contain the fallout from a spontaneous phone call Kos had made to the Dallas Morning News at the end of last month. "This [accusation]," Kos told the paper, "has been boiling and boiling and boiling in me. I haven't had the chance to say my piece since this started."
Kos painted a self-portrait of someone who knew he'd done wrong but felt betrayed by his church. This despite the fact the church paid for more than a year of treatment at a Catholic center for sexually troubled priests in New Mexico (which Kos claimed had cured him). "They have an obligation to me," he told the News, "to take care of me for life.... Once a priest, always a priest."