Priest, 73, Jailed in Sex Probe Is Freed by Prosecutor

By Pat Doyle
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)
January 1, 1993

Northern Minnesota prosecutor John Remington Graham freed a 73-year-old Catholic priest from jail after he was arrested this week on suspicion of sexually assaulting teenaged boys.

The decision has irritated local law enforcement official, who have sparred with Graham over his belief that police are sometimes overzealous.

Graham hasn't filed charges against the priest, Rev. Victor L. Chateauvert of Holy Family Catholic Church in Bull Dog Lake, southeast of Brainerd. Crow Wing County Sheriff's Department investigators arrested him Monday night but released him Tuesday evening to comply with an order from Graham.

Graham, the Crow Wing County Attorney, declined Thursday to explain why he released the priest or say whether he intends to prosecute him. But he said he couldn't have filed charges within the 36-hour deadline. The priest would have been released anyway, Graham said.

Graham said he needed more time to evaluate evidence in the case before deciding whether to prosecute, and he suggested there were other factors leading to his decision to release Chateauvert to the custody of his lawyer.

"He's 73 years old," Graham said. "He's not public enemy No. 1."

But the decision rankles Sheriff Dick Ross. "It's very upsetting when my county attorney does this," Ross said. "It's my job to take these guys off the street."

Chief Deputy Dan Gottsch called the investigation of Chateauvert "a very good case," with enough evidence to justify charges.

County attorneys have authority to release people who were arrested without a warrant, as was the priest. Ross said Graham has ordered the release of three other people similarly arrested; two accused of sex crimes and one accused of drug violations. Graham counters that he eventually charged those people with crimes, and public safety wasn't jeopardized.

But more typically, a person arrested without a warrant is charged within the 36-hour limit and brought before a judge, who sets bond.

Sheriff's investigators arrested Chateauvert on suspicion of second-degree criminal sexual assault of a boy, now 14, and a man, now 19. The two allegedly were sexually assaulted over the past three years, some in a recreation area of Holy Family Catholic Church.

As Crow Wing County Attorney, Graham has established a reputation for advocating less prosecution of some cases, including alleged child abuse, and has feuded with law enforcement. But he said yesterday that his recent order "was not an attempt to countermand or rebuke the sheriff."


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