Victim: Defrocked Priest Hid $80g in Assets

By Brian Krans
Quad-Cities Online
October 4, 2007

Attorneys in a civil case against a defrocked Davenport priest want him found in contempt of court for allegedly hiding $80,000 in bonds.

In May 2005, a Scott County jury awarded already defrocked priest James Janssen's nephew $1.89 million for abuse that he allegedly suffered as a child. Since then, attorneys have been going through Mr. Janssen's assets to discover how much money he has.

Thursday, attorneys representing his nephew, Jim Wells, wanted Scott County Chief Judge Bobbi Alpers to find Mr. Janssen in contempt of court for allegedly hiding his money.

"We don't feel that we've gotten a full disclosure," Mr. Wells' attorney, Tom Yeggy.

In 2003, Mr. Wells sued Mr. Janssen, who was an active priest from 1948 to 1990, claiming he had been sexually molested more than 40 years ago. Mr. Janssen was defrocked in 2004, but never criminally prosecuted. Other cases regarding Mr. Janssen's alleged conduct with other victims have been settled out of court.

But attorneys and an accountant hired to help on the case found that Mr. Janssen, now 85, began selling his government bonds as soon as he heard of the first lawsuit filed against him that alleged he sexually abused altar boys.

Mr. Janssen got wind of the lawsuit when a newspaper story first reported it May 22, 2003. The next day, Mr. Janssen and his sister, Dorothy Janssen, began cashing in bonds they held jointly totaling more than $712,000, Mr. Yeggy said.

Mr. Janssen said he cashed in the bonds on the advice of his former attorney Ned Wehr. Mr. Wehr could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Mr. Janssen's new attorney, J.E. "Mike" Tobey, said Thursday that once Mr. Janssen talked to Mr. Wehr, "vigorous activity" began on the accounts.

"He (Mr. Janssen) is not the kind of person to engineer the secrecy of assets," Mr. Tobey said.

But, after cashing in the bonds, he and his sister didn't immediately cash the checks, holding some for as long as 1 years, Mr. Janssen testified.

Asked why someone would do that, accountant Gary Shapley testified, "I would think they wouldn't want someone to know you have the money. If you've got $500,000 in cashier's checks, why would you have them lying around in a drawer?"

So far, all but $80,000 of the former priest's assets have been accounted for, Mr. Shapley said.

Mr. Janssen said he doesn't know where the missing bond money would be because his sister handled most of the transactions because the bonds were in both of their names.

Ms. Janssen, who is also named as a defendant in the civil action, said in a deposition that her brother handled most of the transactions, Mr. Yeggy said.

Judge Alpers allowed Mr. Tobey until Oct. 15 to file additional paperwork in the case.

Last fall, the Diocese of Davenport declared bankruptcy last fall following several lawsuits alleging sexual abuse at the hands of clergy. It was the fourth Catholic diocese in the country to do so.

Since 2004, the Davenport Diocese has paid more than $10.5 million to resolve dozens of claims filed against priests, including a $9 million settlement reached with 37 victims.



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.