Fargo Diocese Priest Will Not Be Charged, Remains on Administrative Leave
By Joe Radske
July 28, 2017
WAHPETON, ND – Charges will not be filed against a Fargo Catholic Diocese priest accused of inappropriately touching girls.
Father Thomas Feltman was being investigated for what the diocese called “alleged conduct” involving his interaction with youth.
Richland County States Attorney Ron McBeth says that although Feltman’s behavior was socially unacceptable, “there is no evidence that the touching was done by Father Feltman for sexual reasons, which would be necessary in order to prove an element of a sex offense.”
Father Feltman’s Attorney said, “Father Feltman has always denied any “inappropriate touching”.
Bishop John Folda earlier removed Feltman from his duties pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
Statement from Richland County States Attorney Ron McBeth:
The Richland County State’s Attorney’s Office will not be bringing criminal charges against Father Feltman for the incident reported in Wyndmere, ND in May of 2017. It was reported that as Father Feltman would go to hug the girls, Father Feltman hand would touch them on the side of their breast or on their butt. Although this made the girls feel uncomfortable and this touching was socially inappropriate, there is no evidence that the touching was done by Father Feltman for sexual reasons which would be necessary in order to prove an element of a sex offense crime. The State’s Attorney’s Office, by way of their prosecutorial discretion, declines to charge Father Feltman with any crime based on this evidence.
Vogel Law Firm in Fargo released the following statement on behalf of Father Feltman,”
I also wish to emphasize a couple of points here. Father Feltman has always denied any “inappropriate touching.” When the issue was brought to his attention by a parent, he denied the conduct and promptly self-reported the incident to the church so it could be investigated. The matter was thoroughly investigated and the prosecutor concluded that there was no “probable cause” which is a very low standard. The allegations were that this incident occurred in a public setting. Father Feltman hopes that all involved in this matter may find peace and reconciliation and is very appreciative of the strong support he has received.
Statement from Diocese of Fargo:
The Richland County State’s Attorney Office today announced that no criminal charges will be filed against Father Thomas Feltman, Pastor of St. John the Baptist’s Catholic Church in Wyndmere and St. Arnold’s Catholic Church in Milnor. When Father Feltman was told of concerns regarding his interactions with children, he reported the matter to the Diocese of Fargo and Bishop John Folda immediately placed him on administrative leave from his priestly duties pending the outcome of the investigation. Father Feltman was then under investigation by the Richland County Sheriff’s Office. Father Feltman will remain on administrative leave until an internal investigation by the Diocese is completed. Upon completion of the internal review, Bishop Folda will determine any future ministry assignments that best benefit the parishes, parishioners, and Fr. Feltman. This has been a difficult time for the individuals who reported their concerns, for the parishioners of these parishes, and for Fr. Feltman. The Diocese of Fargo will continue to offer pastoral support for all involved. Bishop Folda said : “I want to assure everyone that the safety of our children and families is—and will remain – a priority for the Diocese of Fargo. I ask you to keep in your prayers everyone who may be affected by this matter and our Church.”