Judge Allows Deposition of Twin Cities Archbishop in Sex Abuse Case

By Emily Gurnon
Pioneer Press
February 11, 2014

Archbishop John Nienstedt (Pioneer Press file photo: John Doman)

A judge has cleared the way for attorneys in a sexual abuse case to take the depositions of Archbishop John Nienstedt, former Vicar General Kevin McDonough and the Rev. John Brown.

Ramsey County District Judge John Van de North also ruled during a hearing Tuesday that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona must disclose the names and other information regarding priests accused of sexual abuse of children since 2004. The information is due to the court by Feb. 18.

Lists of the names of those accused before 2004, compiled as part of a national study, were released in December.

Responding to church attorneys' concerns that innocent priests would be harmed by the revelations, Van de North ordered the new lists be filed under seal. But they "must be accompanied by a thorough explanation of why public disclosure would be unreasonable," he said.

A decision will come later as to whether the names should remain secret.

The judge's pronouncements came in the case of John Doe 1. The Twin Cities man alleged in May that he was sexually abused by Thomas Adamson in 1976 or 1977 when the priest served at St. Thomas Aquinas in St. Paul Park. The plaintiff also alleged that the archdiocese and diocese failed to respond adequately.

Adamson worked in both jurisdictions. He had admitted that he molested boys in the Winona Diocese, yet was transferred to the Twin Cities archdiocese and allowed to work here, according to the suit.

St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson has argued for the plaintiff that he should be able to seek broad discovery in the case. One of the claims made by John Doe 1 is that the archdiocese and diocese created a public nuisance by concealing Adamson's history and that of other priest offenders from the community.

In that context, information about other abusers -- and how the church officials handled accusations -- is relevant, Anderson said.

But the archdiocesan and diocesan attorneys have argued strenuously that Anderson is casting a net that is far too wide. The plaintiff is seeking information that has no relevance to Adamson's case, they say.

"These expansive and disproportionately burdensome demands for information stretch back to time immemorial, and give no guidance as to time, person, place, or any other specifics," attorney Thomas Braun of the Diocese of Winona wrote in a memorandum.

The depositions of Nienstedt, McDonough and Brown shall be done within 30 days, and preferably sooner for Brown, considering his advanced age, Van de North said. Brown is 93.The judge limited Brown's deposition to 90 minutes. Nienstedt could be deposed for a half day and McDonough for a full day, he ordered.

Anderson has argued that Brown's testimony is relevant not because he abused John Doe 1, but rather because he is an example of another abuser whose case the archdiocese mishandled.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522. Follow her at









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