Victims" Attorney Sues Church and Says Choi Is Protecting Church, Abusive Priests
By Madeleine Baran
Minnesota Public Radio
January 30, 2014
Victims' attorney Jeff Anderson sued the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Thursday then immediately slammed Ramsey County Attorney John Choi for what he called a "defective and deficient" response to allegations that top archdiocese leaders covered up clergy sex abuse.
Anderson, who was the first to expose the archdiocese's failure to report sex crimes nearly three decades ago, said Choi's handling of the abuse scandal is putting children at risk.
Anderson's remarks came at a news conference held at his St. Paul office to announce the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of a victim of the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer. The lawsuit accuses the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis of deceiving the public by saying it has made every effort to protect children and for failing to protect the young boy from Wehmeyer.
Anderson sharply criticized Choi's decision Wednesday not to charge anyone at the archdiocese for failure to promptly report sexual abuse by the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer in 2012.
"If I have to publicly shame John Choi for making the decision, that's what I'll do," he said.
Choi said Anderson's criticism is inaccurate.
"For him to suggest that nothing has happened or is being considered or contemplated is totally unfair," Choi said. "He doesn't know and he shouldn't know because he's a private attorney representing clients who are suing the archdiocese."
Over the past three decades, Anderson has filed suit on behalf of thousands of victims of clergy sexual abuse around the country. He has also sued the Vatican. He said today was the first time in his career that he directly criticized law enforcement. He said he hopes his remarks will encourage police to demand search warrants to seize the files of abusive priests held at church headquarters and to force Archbishop John Nienstedt and other top officials to talk to police.
He pointed to the archdiocese's recently released list of 34 "credibly accused" priests and said law enforcement should seize all of the church's files on those priests immediately. Top church officials have shown a pattern of failing to report crimes to police, he said.
"They keep secrets, and when you're doing a criminal investigation, you don't rely on the suspect to tell you the truth," he said.
St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith said Wednesday that he lacks probable cause to get a court order to seize all of the archdiocese's files. Choi, the Ramsey County prosecutor, said that he can prosecute only crimes for which he has evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.
Smith declined to comment Thursday. Choi said his office and St. Paul Police plan to release a joint statement responding to the criticism of their investigation.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis issued a response Thursday evening: "Mr. Jeffrey Anderson's assertions regarding the archdiocese are false, inflammatory and misleading. We take particular exception to his unfounded assumptions regarding the intent and actions of Archbishop Nienstedt, who has been resolute in his commitment to strictly adhering to both canon and civil laws." [Read the full statement]