Stenehjem Says Records of Priest Investigation Should Be Open

Associated Press State & Local Wire
January 20, 2004

Police investigation records about a former Jamestown Roman Catholic priest who was accused of molesting three teenage boys should be open to public review, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says.

Authorities believe the suspect, the Rev. Abraham Anthony, has fled to his native India. Anthony, who is also known as Anthony Abraham, was a visiting priest at St. James Catholic Church in Jamestown for about eight months.

Anthony faces charges of gross sexual imposition, sexual assault and disorderly conduct for alleged incidents involving three boys in February 2000. He was charged two months after the assaults allegedly happened, and fled the country before Jamestown police could interview him.

Two boys, who were 13 and 17 at the time, were "forcibly fondled," police records indicate. Anthony was accused of kissing and striking the third victim, whose age was not immediately available.

The most serious charges of gross sexual imposition and sexual assault are felonies, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Stenehjem's opinion says Fritz Fremgen, the Stutsman County state's attorney, has decided not to prosecute the case. Fremgen did not respond Tuesday to telephone and e-mail requests for comment.

Stenehjem's opinion was written in response to request from The Dallas Morning News for information about the Anthony investigation. Fremgen, in correspondence with a reporter at the newspaper, said the alleged victims supported his decision not to pursue the case.

Federal authorities have been notified in case Anthony returns to the United States, or applies for a visa, case documents say.

Normally, police investigative files on an open case are not considered public records. The Jamestown police chief, David Donegan, argued against disclosure, saying it would give Anthony an advantage if he is later arrested and interviewed about the incidents.

Disclosure would also "cause undue embarrassment" to the victims, and may make them less likely to cooperate as witnesses against Anthony, Donegan said.

However, Stenehjem said state law requires disclosure of the information, because the case against Anthony is no longer active.

"Under this factual situation, there appears to be no ongoing investigation at all, and consequently no reasonable, good-faith anticipation of securing an arrest or prosecution in the foreseeable future," Stenehjem wrote in his opinion.


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