Tuesday, December 17, 2013

St. Paul Police Chief: Archdiocese Has Not Been Very Cooperative on Sex Abuse Cases, That Has to Change

Megan Stewart
KSTP Saint Paul
December 17, 2013

St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith said Tuesday archdiocesan officials have not been very cooperative on priest sex abuse cases. He urged the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul to be more forthcoming with information on previous allegations of sex abuse.

In a news conference he said, “I want to let the public know one thing: let me be very clear on this," Smith said. "We have through written and verbal requests made clear our desire to speak to individuals connected to the archdiocese and we have been told no."

Smith says police have not had the access to interview clergy members in recent investigations into the previous allegations. As late as last week, Smith said they were told no.

"In order for us to bring these cases to the next step in the process of concluding investigations and to bring them to closure, we again, now publicly, call upon those individuals to speak with us," Smith said. "That’s why we are here today.”

Smith said he sent a letter, in addition to numerous verbal requests, asking for access to members of the archdiocese who have relevant knowledge of the procedures within the archdiocese.

“It’s never good enough when someone tells us no and that’s why we have to work with our partners," Smith said. "And let me clarify. I request to talk with people in voluntary interviews to learn more information to further our investigations, but you have to have probable cause. If someone tells us no, they don’t want to talk to us and the archdiocese says they’re cooperating you can come to the reasonable conclusion of where we are here today.”

When questioned why St. Paul police have not obtained a search warrant for the "secret documents,” Smith said they have not been able to get enough access to information that would justify a search warrant. “You need probable cause to get search warrants and to do that, you’ve got to be able to talk with people and we haven’t been able to do that so far.”

The Archdiocese came out with a statement earlier Tuesday saying someone had come forward with allegations against Archbishop John Nienstedt.

In terms of the investigation directly involving Nienstedt, Smith said police have not yet spoken to the Archbishop about the case because it is less than 24 hours old. He said it is too early in the investigation to know if the archdiocese will cooperate.

In a written statement Nienstedt said: "I hope that the investigations can be thorough but quick. I already long to be back in public ministry—to be able to serve as the Lord has called me to serve. I regret this will be my last column until the present investigations are complete."

Smith said police have scheduled a meeting with an attorney from the Archdiocese Wednesday.

"Today the archdiocese has voiced its commitment to cooperation. And let me tell you this, ‘I expect nothing less,’”said Smith.

The archdiocese made the following statement in response to Tuesday's news conference:

"The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis greatly appreciates the comments by St. Paul Police Chief Smith today. We affirm that we received his letter and answered within the two-day span requested. In our response, we asked for an opportunity to meet with members of the St. Paul Police. Our hope was that, through this meeting, which the police set for tomorrow, we could better understand the requests for information in greater detail.

We look forward to the meeting, which will include not only an attorney but also our new Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, Fr. Charles Lachowitzer, as was requested by Chief Smith. Although we cannot speak for Fr. McDonough and his choice not to speak with the police, as we have stated repeatedly, the archdiocese seeks to cooperate with the police and all civil authorities."

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