More People Have Reported Priest Sex Abuse, St. Paul Police Say
By Richard Chin
November 13, 2013
St. Paul police said Wednesday that some people have responded to a recent request for victims of sexual abuse by priests to report their experiences to police.
"We obviously have made calls for folks to come forward, for victims to come forward," said police spokesman Howie Padilla. "Some folks have courageously, bravely come forward to help tell their stories. We're looking into those."
At a news conference Oct. 17, St. Paul police appealed to victims to contact them as they reopen an investigation of a child pornography case involving a former Hugo cleric.
Earlier, on Oct. 8, police said they were again investigating allegations that the Rev. Jonathan Shelley possessed child pornography on a computer he owned in 2004. Shelley denied the allegation, and the case was closed Sept. 29 after discs turned over to police by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis contained only adult porn.
But a few days later, a Hugo parishioner, who later obtained Shelley's computer, turned over files to police that he said he had copied from the device's hard drive.
The case was reopened and police Cmdr. Mary Nash held a news conference to announce that, "based on this investigation and previous investigations, the St. Paul Police Department is seeking victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church."
Padilla would not say Wednesday how many people have come forward since that announcement.
Police previously declined to comment on whether the investigation was targeting additional priests. On Wednesday, Padilla denied media reports that Archbishop John Nienstedt and the Rev. Peter Laird, former archdiocese vicar general, are part of the investigation.
"At this moment, at this time that we're speaking, Archbishop John Nienstedt and former vicar general Father Peter Laird are not the focus of investigation as we sit here and talk," Padilla said. "Does that mean they won't be later on? It does not. What it means is they aren't at this moment."
He said the two are "not the center of our investigation at this time, and as a matter of fact, at this moment as we stand here this day, they're not being investigated."
But Padilla also said, "We are not going to limit the focus of this investigation."
"We are going to do the same as we said at day one -- follow this investigation to the path that it takes us," he said.
Jim Accurso, the archdiocese media and public relations manager, issued a statement Wednesday evening.
"The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is aware that the St. Paul Police have reopened their investigation into the Shelley case. We will cooperate fully, as we did in the police's previous seven-month investigation that found no evidence of child pornographic material. We take very seriously matters of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy. We encourage anyone who has been a victim of such sexual abuse to report it to police and to the archdiocese.
"Any inference or suggestion that the Archdiocese withheld evidence or obstructed justice simply is inaccurate."
Padilla said no arrests have been made and no case has been presented to the Ramsey County attorney's office. He said the investigation is in its early stages.
"We understand and absolutely appreciate the fact that this is an emotional issue," Padilla said. "It's a very personal issue to a lot of people. However, I can tell you this for sure: Our investigators will not allow emotions, will not allow outside influences to sway the fact-finding mission that they're on."
Richard Chin can be reached at 651-228-5560. Follow him at twitter.com/RRChin.