Dismissal of Porn Charge against Hibbing Priest Disappoints Victims
By Kelly Grinsteinner
Hibbing Daily Tribune
October 7, 2016
Families involved in the criminal charges against a Hibbing priest, who was found not guilty this summer of inappropriately touching four girls, are likely feeling victimized once again, according to SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
The reaction comes just days after the prosecutor filed a dismissal letter dropping the remaining child pornography charge against Brian Michael Lederer.
“Our hearts ache for the five kids and their families who have helped police and prosecutors pursue an accused child molesting cleric, Fr. Brian Lederer,” stated David Clohessy, director of SNAP, in a media release. “They must be terribly distraught that he’s escaped prosecution on all charges.”
Lederer, 31, had been a priest at Blessed Sacrament Parish and Assumption Catholic School in Hibbing until he was placed on leave in May 2015 when he was arrested and charged with four counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
In June, a Hibbing jury acquitted Lederer on six counts of criminal sexual conduct. At that time, he still faced potential prosecution on a felony child pornography charge, which Sixth Judicial District Judge David Ackerson had earlier ruled would have to be tried as a separate issue.
The dismissal letter filed Sept. 30 by Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Jeff Vlatkovich explained that evidence is insufficient in proving that Lederer intentionally viewed pornographic images that contained persons under 18 years of age.
Families involved with the sexual abuse charges against Lederer and advocates, including Clohessy, had pushed for prosecutors to pursue the child pornography charge in wake of the acquittal.
“We’re disappointed that the prosecutor hasn’t been more aggressive and creative,” stated Clohessy. “If he thinks somehow that Minnesota law is deficient, he should be pushing lawmakers hard to remedy any deficiencies. But we suspect the real problem here is a lack of courage, not a lack of appropriate statues.”
Vlatkovich, in a statement Friday, said he still stands behind those affected.
“While it may have been easier to not have filed charges because there was no physical evidence or other eyewitnesses who saw the touching that happened while other adults and children were present, I believe — and still believe in — the victims. That’s why I took the case to trial,” he said. “I poured my heart and soul into obtaining a conviction on this case. The victims showed incredible courage in doing the right thing by reporting the touching to authorities.”
SNAP is now calling on local law enforcement to use its “bully pulpits” to prompt others to share their suspicions about and experiences with Lederer.
“We hope more who were victimized by Fr. Lederer come forward so that he might face more charges and eventually be kept away from kids,” wrote Clohessy.
Families involved in these cases have been advised by their legal counsel to refrain from comment. One mother called it a “painful matter in our lives and in our community.”
Clohessy stated that it’s common for predatory preachers, ministers and rabbis to get top-notch defense lawyers, exploit legal technicalities and get off scot-free.
“The best remedy in these tragic cases is for others with information or suspicions about the offender to summon up some strength and call law enforcement,” he added. “We hope that happens here.”
A spokesman for the Diocese of Duluth told the Duluth News Tribune earlier this week that Lederer’s future as a priest remains uncertain.