NOPD confirms rape investigation involving Catholic priest named in lawsuit
By Greg Larose
February 01, 2021
The probe follows a November complaint against Rev. John Asare-Dankwah
The New Orleans Police Department confirmed Monday that it is investigating claims that a local priest raped a 10-year-old boy in 2008.
The probe follows a complaint this past November from the accuser against the Rev. John Asare-Dankwah, who the NOPD mentioned by name in response to questions about the case.
The priest was named in a lawsuit filed last week that details allegations involving a religious retreat in Montgomery, Alabama. Asare led the retreat and approached the boy during the sacrament of confession, according to the suit.
"This will be over soon," the priest told the boy before raping him, court documents allege. The lawsuit says Asare pulled the boy out of bed that night and took him to another location alone. The lawsuit alleges that Asare accused the boy of being gay, calling him a sinner, then prayed over the boy and beat him.
Asare, who is currently out of the country in Ghana, denied the allegations in a statement to reporters last week.
An NOPD report WDSU has obtained indicates the accuser contacted police Nov. 9, 2020. It does not name the victim or Asare, or identify the suspect as a priest.
Detectives with the special victims' section of the sex crimes unit are assigned to the case, according to the report that indicates the status of the case as open.
“NOPD is aware of allegations of abuse made by the victim against Father John Asare-Dankwah,” NOPD spokesperson Gary Scheets said Monday in an email. “Investigators are working to determine the location of occurrence of the alleged incidents. Any incident which is determined to have occurred in Orleans Parish will be fully investigated.”
The police report does not say where the alleged crime occurred, listing only the local address where the victim filed his complaint. Whether police referred the case to an outside law enforcement agency is also not detailed in the report.
Most clergy abuse allegations involve events from decades ago and suspects who have long since died by the time claims are made. The average age of victims when they come forward is 52, according to the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests.
By those standards, the claims involving Asare are comparatively recent. Mike Cahn, a former NOPD investigator, said the relative newness of the allegations could aid detectives as they gather facts.
"This is a situation where it hasn't been that long ago,” Cahn said. “You would want to … find out what locations were used, and then put it out there and see if there were any other victims of potential crimes from the same perpetrator. Other people may be more comfortable coming forward at this point."
Cold cases with DNA evidence been solved up to 30 years later, he added.
Although the police report lists the status of the case as open, the NOPD classified the case as a “simple rape unfounded.” Cahn said the unfounded designation is used, for example, when a location or address doesn’t exist. If the location cannot be confirmed, he said investigators will indicate that there will be a report to follow.
Cahn didn't speculate as to why police classified the incident as unfounded, and the NOPD did not respond to the same question.
Asare's statement denying accusations in the lawsuit was delivered through two local lawyers, who said they spoke with the priest over the phone. When Asare will return from his home country in Africa is not clear.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans has said he is on a family vacation and that the trip was “planned and scheduled. A spokesperson did not provide departure or arrival dates for Asare.
“Planned and scheduled departure could mean that I planned it yesterday and departed today,” Cahn said. “That’s always a question: How long was it planned?”