Ex-Priest Doesn't Produce Bonds, Gets Jail Time

By Brian Krans
The Leader
January 9, 2008

Defrocked Davenport priest James Janssen must turn himself in at the Scott County Jail Wednesday morning after a judge sentenced him today to six months in prison for failing to produce $80,000 in savings bonds.

In November, Scott County Chief Judge Bobbi Alpers found Mr. Janssen in contempt of court for allegedly hiding money that is set to go to his nephew, James Wells, as part of a $1.89 million civil judgment in a sexual abuse case.

Since ordered in 2005 to provide the court with a list of his assets, Mr. Janssen has only provided a handwritten copy of a list of bond numbers that totaled $80,000. He testified that he found the list, but couldn't recall where the original note was.

Asked how he could in such a disorganized manner come up with numbers for bonds totaling $80,000 when facing jail time, Mr. Janssen replied, 'I don't know.'

Judge Alpers sentenced him to 180 days in jail, which is to start Wednesday morning, for not complying with her order to produce the bonds.

'The information being provided is too little, too late,' the judge said.

On the advice of his attorney, Mr. Janssen declined comment after the hearing.

Since the civil judgment in May 2005, attorneys have been going through Mr. Janssen's assets to discover how much money he has. Attorney Craig Levien, who represented Mr. Janssen's nephew and numerous other alleged sexual abuse victims of Catholic priests, said they discovered more than $700,000 in bonds belonging to Mr. Janssen.

'It could be several of hundreds of thousands more,' Mr. Levien said after Judge Alpers' ruling today. 'The game of hide and seek continues.'

Mr. Levien said he was happy with the decision because it showed how serious Judge Alpers took Mr. Janssen's actions.

Judge Alpers originally ordered Mr. Janssen, 85, to begin his jail sentence immediately, but allowed a 24-hour delay to allow Mr. Janssen to make medical arrangements.

His attorney, J.E. 'Mike' Tobey III, told the judge of Mr. Janssen's serious heart problems that require specific medication. Mr. Levien, however, said Mr. Janssen still lives alone and drives regularly, so his health isn't as poor as Mr. Tobey made it sound.

It's the first time Mr. Janssen has been jailed relating from any alleged sexual abuse. While named a defendant in numerous suits, he's never been criminally charged.

According to testimony in Mr. Wells' case, Mr. Janssen began selling his government bonds as soon as he heard of the first lawsuit filed against him that alleged he sexually abused altar boys.

In 2003, Mr. Wells sued Mr. Janssen, who was an active priest from 1948 to 1990, claiming he had been sexually molested by his uncle more than 40 years ago. Mr. Janssen was defrocked in 2004, but never criminally prosecuted. Other civil cases involving Mr. Janssen's alleged conduct with other victims have been settled out of court.

Mr. Janssen got wind of the lawsuit when a newspaper story first reported it May 22, 2003. The next day, Mr. Janssen and his sister, Dorothy Janssen, began cashing in bonds they held jointly totaling more than $712,000, according to prior testimony.

Mr. Janssen said he cashed in the bonds on the advice of his former attorney.

After cashing in the bonds, he and his sister didn't immediately cash the checks, holding some for as long as 1 years, Mr. Janssen said in previous testimony. Mr. Janssen said he doesn't know where the missing bond money would be because his sister handled most of the transactions.

He continued that assertion on the stand today.


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