Teen Molested by Priest Sues Archdiocese
January 30, 2014
A teenage boy who was molested by the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer from 2008 through 2011 sued the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis on Thursday, alleging it conspired to protect the priest from criminal prosecution and conceal his history of sexual misconduct from the public.
The lawsuit comes one day after Ramsey County prosecutors said they wouldn't charge members of the archdiocese for the way they handled allegations against Wehmeyer because there was insufficient evidence to prove anyone failed to immediately report the abuse. Wehmeyer pleaded guilty in 2012 and is serving a five-year prison sentence.
However, a document obtained Wednesday by Minnesota Public Radio News raised questions about when church leaders knew about the accusations against Wehmeyer and about the timing of the report to police. St. Paul police and prosecutors said Thursday they didn't have that document in their initial investigation, but they are now reviewing it to see if it warrants reopening the case.
"At this point, we are not reopening anything," said police spokesman Howie Padilla.
The archdiocese said in a statement that it acted appropriately in reporting the accusation to police. The information was first provided to a priest "in the context of a pastoral relationship," which would make it privileged information and exempt from reporting, the statement said. The archdiocese then sought to waive that privilege so it could be reported.
In addition, the statement said, the date referenced in the document obtained by MPR was inaccurate.
The latest lawsuit also names Wehmeyer as a defendant. Internal documents showed church leaders knew Wehmeyer had issues with sexual misconduct, including at least two solicitations of men for sex, before he was promoted to lead The Church of the Blessed Sacrament in 2009.
The lawsuit claims church leaders should have known he was a risk to children before he molested two brothers at the parish. It also claims the archdiocesan officials conspired to conceal Wehmeyer's sexual misconduct and shield him from prosecution.
According to a police report and the lawsuit, church officials removed Wehmeyer from his duties and told him to leave the parish property in June 2012 before police came to question him. Church officials also took Wehmeyer's gun and laptop and didn't give the laptop to police until days later. Wehmeyer put his camper in storage.
Jeff Anderson, the attorney for the victim in this case, has claimed this gave Wehmeyer and church leaders ample time to destroy evidence. The teen, who was between 11 and 14 years old when the abuse happened, is identified in the lawsuit as Doe 31.
The lawsuit alleges "spoliation of evidence," saying the archdiocese maintained exclusive possession and control of evidence that was critical to showing Wehmeyer's misconduct. It also says church officials had a duty to preserve the evidence and should have known it would be used in potential litigation.
Padilla said Thursday: "At this time, we don't have any definitive information that evidence was destroyed."
However, St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith said at a news conference Wednesday that investigators were not happy with the way church leaders provided information at that time.
The archdiocese said it has and continues to cooperate with police.