Archbishop's Deposition Ends "Heatedly" after 4 Hours, Lawyer Says; Archdiocese Says He Answered All Questions
By Richard Chin
April 2, 2014
|The deposition of Archbishop John Nienstedt lasted four hours, per a judge's instructions. (Pioneer Press: John Doman)|
A four-hour deposition of Archbishop John Nienstedt as part of a priest abuse lawsuit ended "abruptly" and "heatedly" Wednesday after lawyers representing an alleged victim urged the Roman Catholic archdiocese to turn over files of accused priests to law enforcement, the plaintiff's lawyer said.
Jeff Anderson, lawyer for a plaintiff identified as Doe 1, also said the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has not turned over all information it was required to disclose in the case. But Anderson said he would be turning over the information he has gathered and information from Nienstedt's deposition Wednesday to law enforcement.
Anderson also urged St. Paul police to execute search warrants to seize files on credibly accused priests that he said are being hidden or destroyed by the archdiocese.
"Seize them. Seize those files. Why haven't they, begs the question. And why won't they, begs the more serious question," Anderson said. "Why are they being treated so gingerly? Why are they being treated so differently?
"Get those files before evidence is destroyed," he said.
The archdiocese issued a statement Wednesday saying that in his deposition, Nienstedt "expressed regret for mistakes that were made in the past," and said he would "adopt upcoming recommendations, including those of an outside expert firm that is reviewing existing procedures and clergy files."
In a later statement, Jim Accurso, archdiocese spokesman, said, "The archbishop responded to all questions posed to him today during the four-hour time period as prescribed by Ramsey County Civil Court."
As part of the Doe 1 lawsuit, Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North had ordered church officials to disclose files relating to 33 priests "credibly accused" before 2004. Attorneys in the case later agreed that the archdiocese this week would turn over files related to the period, beginning in 2007, when Nienstedt was in charge.
Van de North also specified that Nienstedt's deposition before the plaintiff's lawyers would last four hours, Anderson said. Anderson said the session did last four hours, but he said it should have continued.
"It was four hours, and we felt it had been obstructed and it needed to continue," Anderson said. "And they felt that because the judge ordered four hours, they were permitted to stop the deposition at a certain point in time. We had a dispute over that and did not agree, and so it abruptly ended."
Anderson said "it is alarming and disturbing" that the session ended at the point that Anderson said he requested that the archdiocese turn over files of accused priests to law enforcement.
"They terminated the deposition. Had him walk out with the question pending. And that was the end of today. But it was not the end of this journey," Anderson said. "They said the time was up. We persisted in saying it wasn't. And it ended abruptly, I might add quite heatedly, with them instructing the archbishop to end the deposition and leave the room."
Anderson said he would ask Van de North to order another session of questioning with the archbishop.
Anderson said Nienstedt answered "a lot of the questions we asked, but I believe this archdiocese continues to engage in a pattern of obstruction of justice, of refusal to answer the questions that are asked of them completely and openly."
Anderson said documents the archdiocese was supposed to turn over were incomplete.
St. Paul police spokesman Howie Padilla said police would welcome any information from the public about potential crimes.
In response to Anderson's comments on how law enforcement is treating the archdiocese, Padilla said, "Mr. Anderson may not be privy to all of the information of the ongoing investigations."
Mara H. Gottfried contributed to this report.
Richard Chin can be reached at 651-228-5560. Follow him at twitter.com/RRChin.