Twin Cities Archbishop Gives Deposition, Dispute Arises
St. Cloud Times
April 3, 2014
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 is 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.”
On Thursday, the archdiocese disputed the suggestion that Nienstedt didn’t cooperate fully with a court-ordered deposition.
Archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso says Nienstedt fulfilled the four-hour deposition ordered by a judge. And Accurso says the archdiocese is making every effort to meet the court’s schedule for turning over documents.
Mike Finnegan, one of the attorneys for a man suing the archdiocese, said attorneys prevented Nienstedt from answering some questions. He said attorneys will ask the judge for more time for the deposition.
Dispute over discloure
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 written documents that the archdiocese was supposed to turn over were also incomplete.
St. Paul police spokesman Howie Padilla said police would welcome any information from the public about potential crimes.
“As we have said all along, when anyone recognizes that they might have information that would help us during any of our investigations, we welcome that,” Padilla said. “We’ve gotten information from various areas in various forms, and we look forward to whatever may come going forward.”
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. The investigators and the prosecutors in the Ramsey County attorney’s office are. If Mr. Anderson feels he has information that will move us forward in these investigations, obviously we want to hear from him.
“I would remind you that even as recently as last week, the Ramsey County attorney’s office asked us to reopen investigations,” Padilla said. “The fact that these investigations are ongoing should speak to the level of detail that prosecutors and investigators are looking at as it pertains to what the law allows.”
A trial date of Sept. 22 has been set in the Doe 1 case, and another deposition of longtime top church official the Rev. Kevin McDonough is scheduled for April 16.
This report contains information from The Associated Press.