Did Police Examine Second Set of Disks in Child Porn Investigation?
By Emily Gurnon
February 25, 2014
|Rev. Jonathan Shelley|
Reports released Tuesday by St. Paul police who investigated a priest for possible child pornography possession do not show that computer disks turned over by a Hugo man were examined.
Police investigated the Rev. Jonathan Shelley, 52, of Minneapolis last year after a former employee of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis made a report to the Ramsey County attorney's office.
In late September, police who reviewed three disks they had obtained from the archdiocese closed the case, saying there was no evidence of child porn.
On Oct. 5, they got a call from Joe Ternus of Hugo that led them to reopen the investigation.
Nine years earlier, Ternus had come into possession of Shelley's computer because it was left at a Mahtomedi house that Ternus' family used to own and where Shelley had lived.
Ternus found pornography on it and believed some images might be of children. He notified the archdiocese and turned over the computer's hard drive -- but not before he copied files from the drive onto two identical disks.
He forgot about them, he said, until last year.
When he learned that police had closed the case on Shelley, Ternus called investigators. He wondered whether the information he had copied might be different from what the archdiocese gave police. An investigator drove to Ternus' home and picked up the two disks he had made.
In January, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput -- whose office reviewed the information from police -- said that it declined to charge Shelley. There was no evidence of child pornography on the disks, he said.
But the reports released Tuesday indicate that what police examined and sent on to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, or NCMEC, for analysis, were the three disks they originally received from the archdiocese -- not the disks provided by Ternus.
Howie Padilla, spokesman for St. Paul police, said Tuesday that the images on both sets of disks were identical.
"We viewed the new material and the images were determined to be the same images," he said. "Disks containing those images were sent to NCMEC, who reached the same conclusion as our investigators."
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children determined the first set of images did not depict children.
An Oct. 9 report by Sgt. Jeffrey Keller, who is assigned to the Minnesota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, said he received a call from Sgt. William Gillet.
Gillet "presented me with three computer disks said to have been turned over to him from officials connected with the archdiocese," Keller wrote. It was four days after police had gotten the separate disks from Ternus. Keller asked officer Adam Siegfried to prepare a disk they could send to NCMEC.
More than 1,300 images were sent to NCMEC, all from the disks the archdiocese provided, the reports indicate.
Orput said late Tuesday that he asked St. Paul police about the difference between the disks that had come from the archdiocese and the disks that came from Ternus and he was told they were the same.
"I couldn't imagine the cops being so dumb as to screw that up," he said. "The evidence that allegedly belonged to Shelley was analyzed by multiple law enforcement people."
When told that the reports seemed to indicate otherwise, Orput said, "Let's forget the report. I'm telling you that the images that came from Shelley's computer were analyzed... All the images were examined."
He said Assistant Washington County Attorney Fred Fink, who reviewed the St. Paul police reports, received three disks. A property log confirms that three disks, originally from the office of the attorney for the archdiocese, were sent to Fink.
The original police inquiry into Shelley, who served at St. Jude of the Lake church in Mahtomedi and most recently at St. John the Baptist in Hugo, was sparked by a report by whistleblower Jennifer Haselberger. Haselberger, the former chancellor for canonical affairs for the archdiocese, told a Ramsey County prosecutor early last year that pornographic material from a computer belonging to Shelley was being stored at the archdiocese offices.
Shelley was placed on leave pending the investigations.
His attorney, Paul Engh, said Tuesday that Shelley was "pleased with the conclusions of the report, and agrees with it."
St. Paul police are currently investigating 10 cases of alleged sexual abuse or inappropriate sexual behavior involving priests in the archdiocese, Padilla said Tuesday. That number includes three new cases from about one month ago.
Mara H. Gottfried contributed to this report.
Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522. Follow her at twitter.com/emilygurnon.