St. Paul: Victims Group Wants Handling of Allegations against Priest to Be Reviewed
By Andy Greder
September 24, 2013
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said in a statement Tuesday he was "troubled" by details in a report on how the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis handled allegations against a priest now in prison.
But, he added, his office cannot open a grand jury investigation as requested by a victims' support group. Spokesman Dennis Gerhardstein said the attorney's office must first have a case investigated and presented by police.
Gerhardstein said Tuesday the attorney's office has not been presented with a criminal case for review in the wake of a Monday report by Minnesota Public Radio that said top archdiocese officials knew of the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer's sexual compulsions for nearly a decade, yet kept him in the ministry.
Wehmeyer, formerly assigned to Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in St. Paul, is serving a five-year prison term for sexually abusing two children and possessing child pornography.
On Tuesday, SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, called for a grand jury investigation on how top Catholic officials handled evidence in the case. But Gerhardstein said the attorney's office must rely on police to initiate and conduct criminal investigations when there is probable cause.
"The grand jury process would be no exception to this custom and practice," he said.
"Our office fully expects and encourages individuals and organizations with knowledge of criminal sexual conduct to report their suspicions to police and fully cooperate with police investigators," Gerhardstein said.
St. Paul police spokesman Howie Padilla said, "If other information or someone comes with a specific complaint, and if we are the investigating agency, we will take the lead."
In a statement Monday, the archdiocese stood by its response to Wehmeyer's actions but added that improvements were being made to policies related to clergy misconduct. The archdiocese said it is taking steps to ensure its policies build on best practices regarding clergy sex abuse and child pornography.
Padilla said the archdiocese was helpful in the initial case against Wehmeyer.
"With their cooperation, we were able to investigate fully," he said.
Bob Schwiderski, Minnesota director of SNAP, accused three archdiocesan staffers of acting "recklessly and inappropriately."
He cited MPR's report that two staffers took one of Wehmeyer's computers, and a third who interviewed a potential victim before police did.