County attorney: no charge for Archdiocese in Wehmeyer case

Civil suit against former Blessed Sacrament priest and Archdiocese is filed

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is off the hook with Ramsey County, for the time being, in investigations related to the timeliness of its leaders reporting the clergy sexual abuse committed by former East Side priest Curtis Wehmeyer, 47, as well as the Rev. Jonathan Shelley.

Wehmeyer was a pastor at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, located at the intersection of White Bear and Lacrosse avenues, starting in 2009 up until he was arrested in June 2012.

On Wednesday, Jan. 29, the Ramsey County attorney’s office announced they “cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that a member of the Archdiocese failed to report clergy sexual abuse of a minor in a timely manner.

The attorney’s office worked with St. Paul police investigators, reviewing police reports before coming to the decision.

In response, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis announced it is “grateful to the St. Paul Police Department and the Ramsey and Washington county attorneys’ offices for their thorough investigation and clearing of the archdiocese.”

However, just hours after the press conference, a new piece of evidence surfaced which police said could prompt them to reopen the case.

New evidence appears

A letter from Archbishop John Nienstedt to the Vatican, obtained by Minnesota Public Radio, shows that the archdiocese was aware of the allegations two days before police opened their investigation on June 20, 2012.

“On June 18, 2012, the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis received a complaint that Reverend Curtis Wehmeyer ... supplied alcohol and sexually explicit images to a minor, and fondled or attempted to fondle the minor’s genitals,” Nienstedt wrote. He then continued to say he’d delegated the Rev. Peter Laird, the current vicar general -- the archbishop’s second in command -- to investigate the allegations.

“Father Laird should also avoid taking any action which may interfere with or hinder any criminal investigation,” he stated.

Choi and other county prosecutors, when presented with the document, reportedly said they had not seen it and questioned why it had not been included with the investigative file.

MPR reports the additional evidence might prompt investigators to reopen the case.

Civil suit announced

The day after the county announced it would not be filing charges, St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson announced the filing of a civil lawsuit against Wehmeyer on behalf of a youth.

At a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 30, Anderson, who has represented many victims of clergy sexual abuse, criticized the county attorney’s office for not pursuing charges against the Archdiocese and its top officials.

However, Rick Dusterhoft, the director of the criminal division at the county attorney’s office, has reportedly stated Minnesota law does not allow for broad obstruction of justice charges.

The lawsuit names the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as Wehmeyer, and alleges the Archdiocese had knowledge that Wehmeyer posed a risk to children and failed to protect the minor, according to a statement from Anderson.

The statement says top Archdiocesan officials including the Rev. Kevin McDonough, who served as vicar general from 1991-2008, learned about Wehymeyer’s sexual deviance as early as 2004.

“Wehmeyer reportedly solicited sex from two young men at a Barnes & Noble,” the statement reads. Wehmeyer was then sent by the Archdiocese to a treatment facility in Maryland for known sex offenders.

Upon returning he was put back into ministry at Blessed Sacrament, and was required to attend Sexaholics Anonymous meetings.

The archdiocese removed Wehmeyer as pastor after learning of allegations that he’d sexually abused two boys in June 2012.

Wehmeyer was arrested in Oakdale, where he lived, in June 2012, and later pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the two children. He was sentenced in 2013 to five years behind bars and is at the state prison in St. Cloud.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com, or follow on Twitter at @ESRPatrickLark.

Johanna Holub contributed to this report.

 

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