CINCINNATI — Father Geoff Drew pleaded guilty to the rape of an altar boy multiple times in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The guilty plea was announced in court Thursday morning, just one day before jury selection in his trial was set to begin.
Drew, 59, pleaded guilty to all nine counts of rape he faced, and as part of the plea agreement, he will be sentenced to 7 years in prison. He will also register as a Tier III sex offender for the rest of his life. Drew will receive credit for the roughly 27 months he has already spent in prison.
"The defense expresses remorse over what happened," Drew's attorney said in court Thursday. When Judge Leslie Ghiz asked if Drew wanted to add anything further, he declined.
Drew admitted to repeatedly assaulting an altar boy over a three-year period from 1988-91.
The attacks took place in Drew's office at St. Jude Church, where he was then the music minister. The victim, now 41, was 10 and 11 when Drew raped him, according to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.
The victim and his wife spoke in court after the guilty plea.
Addressing Drew directly, the victim's wife spoke first, saying the "shame is yours to carry.”
“I hope you live out your days in a miserable existence," she added.
The victim spoke next, using obscenities to describe the "hell" he's been through over the years.
He described the attacks in detail, and said Drew "ruined the majority of my life."
The victim said he was not happy with the seven years in prison, but agreed to it anyway. He held up a photo of him as a child and told Drew he’s going to have to answer to God “for this.”
Despite it all, Drew's victim said he is a man of faith, and said he forgives Drew for what he did.
Drew’s victim is now making his statement. “Why, because I was vulnerable.” He tells Drew, “f*** you.” “You killed me,” he tells Drew. “I’ve been through hell.”— Craig Cheatham (@CheathamWCPO) December 2, 2021
Drew’s victim tells Drew that he “ruined the majority of my life.” The victim tells Drew, “I forgive you.”— Craig Cheatham (@CheathamWCPO) December 2, 2021
Victim’s wife is crying as she makes a statement in court. She’s speaking directly to Drew telling the convicted Catholic priest that he brought “darkness” to the world. “He trusted you,” she told Drew.— Craig Cheatham (@CheathamWCPO) December 2, 2021
Judge Ghiz added after the victim statement that Drew should be thanking his victim, noting that she would have "gladly" sent him to life in prison.
"I do not know how your victim did not jump over the podium and attack you," Judge Ghiz added.
Drew, who wore a face covering throughout the plea proceedings, appeared to remain emotionless through each statement.
“I am thankful for the bravery of this victim," Prosecutor Joe Deters said in a released statement. "His strength in coming forward now means the world knows who Geoff Drew is. This conviction is vindication, not only for the victim listed in the indictment, but for anyone who was impacted over the years by Drew’s behavior. The effect of him admitting his guilt cannot be overstated for the victims of these crimes. A guilty plea helps to close a painful chapter for these victims. Because of this victim, Geoff Drew walked into court today and admitted that he is a rapist and a predator – and the children of our community are safer now that he’s going to prison.”
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati said they will now seek the "laicization" of Father Drew.
“Father Geoff Drew will never again have a priestly assignment in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati or any other diocese,” said Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr in a released statement.
Following his arrest, officials with the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said they made “serious mistakes” in responding to parishioners’ concerns about the behavior of Rev. Geoff Drew dating back at least six years.
Parishioners of St. Maximilian Kolbe, where Drew was pastor from July 2009 to June 2018, expressed concerns to the central office of the archdiocese in 2013 and again in 2015, according to a news release from the archdiocese.
Drew's concerning behavior included “uninvited bear hugs, shoulder massages, patting of the leg above the knee, and inappropriate sexual comments about one’s body or appearance, directed at teenage boys,” the release said.
The complaints were forwarded to the Butler County Prosecutor’s Office and Butler County Children’s Services. The prosecutor’s investigation found no evidence of criminal behavior.
According to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr at the time, Bishop Joseph Binzer addressed the issue with Drew, who said he would change his behavior.
The archdiocese’s central office did not receive another complaint about Drew until August 2018, a month after he had been assigned as pastor of St. Ignatius. His departure from Maximilian was not related to parishioners' prior complaints, according to the archdiocese; he had requested the switch himself so he could live closer to his mother.
In 2019, school officials at St. Ignatius School said they were never told Drew was to be monitored and kept away from kids. They placed him on leave following accusations he was inappropriately texting at least one boy.