ST. PAUL, Minn. - No criminal charges will be filed against members of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis involving the alleged delay in reporting a priest convicted of sexual abuse of a child.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi made the announcement Wednesday morning after what he described as an extensive investigation into how the Archdiocese handled the case of former Priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who is now serving a 5-year sentence for his crimes.
"The decision to decline this case for criminal prosecution is based upon the facts as they are presented," said Choi.
Choi told reporters that prosecutors can't prove church leaders failed to properly report abuse by Wehmeyer during the time he served at the Blessed Sacrament Parish in St. Paul.
Church leaders removed Wehmeyer from his post in June 2012 after learning of the allegations involving two brothers.
Internal church documents showed archdiocese leaders knew well before then that Wehmeyer had issues with sexual misconduct. Archdiocese leaders have said they didn't suspect Wehmeyer would abuse children, but they have apologized for not handling the matter more aggressively.
Choi told reporters that potential charges were based on Minnesota's mandatory reporting law, which requires reporters to alert authorities to potential cases of sexual abuse within 24 hours of learning about them. Choi says after a thorough investigation, there was insufficient evidence to prove that officials in the archdiocese knew about the abuse of children at the hands of Weymeyer, based on the facts of the case, applicable law and evidentiary issues.
Despite the fact no charges will be filed, Choi said he continues to be troubled by the reporting practices of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. He said there are a number of ongoing cases that he could not discuss involving clergy accused of sexual abuse, cases that police and prosecutors continue to work on.
"This is the first decision for the first case that has been presented to our office and there will be more," said Choi.
Reaction to the decision was swift and critical by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. "We're not lawyers. But we refuse to believe that Twin Cities secular officials are helpless in the face of so much recklessness, callousness and deceit by dozens of complicit Catholic officials year after year after year," said SNAP spokesman Frank Meuers in a written statement.
"Dozens of predator priests have assaulted hundreds of kids and hundreds of adults have been deceived by dozens of Catholic officials. Yet only a handful of the molesters – and none of the enablers – has ever seen the inside of a courtroom. That's not just a tragedy. It's an on-going public safety crisis."