Updated: 01/29/2014 10:16 PM
Created: 01/29/2014 8:38 AM KSTP.com
By: Scott Theisen
Prosecutors declined Wednesday to charge leaders of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis over their handling of an abusive priest, but said the archdiocese needs to do better in its reporting of abuse claims.
Ramsey County prosecutor John Choi said there was insufficient evidence to show church leaders failed to properly report suspicions of abuse by the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, a St. Paul priest accused in 2012 of molesting two brothers.
In a separate case, Washington County prosecutors said they would not charge another archdiocese priest, the Rev. Jon Shelley, who had been accused of possessing child pornography.
The Wehmeyer and Shelley cases were among several that raised questions about the archdiocese's handling of abuse cases after an archdiocese insider went public with her concerns. Internal documents showed that church leaders knew Wehmeyer had issues with sexual misconduct, including at least two solicitations of men for sex before he was promoted to lead Church of the Blessed Sacrament in 2009.
The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis released a statement that read in part, "The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is grateful to the Saint Paul Police Department and the Ramsey and Washington County Attorneys’ offices for their thorough investigation and clearing of the archdiocese in cases involving Curtis Wehmeyer and Fr. Jonathan Shelley... The archdiocese continues to cooperate with all civil authorities related to any investigation of allegations of sexual abuse."
Archbishop John Nienstedt apologized last fall for his handling of Wehmeyer, saying he didn't suspect he was a threat to children.
As the scandal around the archdiocese grew last fall, Nienstedt appointed a task force to examine church policies on abusive priests and ordered an external review of all priest files. He has also apologized to the archdiocese's more than 800,000 Catholics. Nienstedt himself has been accused of improperly touching a boy while posing for a photo during a confirmation ceremony, a claim he vehemently denied.
Despite those moves, St. Paul police earlier complained of foot-dragging by archdiocese officials in responding to their efforts to get information.
"I continue to be troubled by some of the church's reporting practices," Choi said. "Elaboration on that point is for another day."
In Washington County, prosecutor Pete Orput said investigators found no evidence of a crime when they examined computer files that once belonged to Shelley. St. Paul police had reopened the case after receiving a backup copy of the images from a man who acquired Shelley's old computer a decade ago.
Orput said investigators from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, St. Paul police and his own child abuse specialist all looked at the files and agreed they are not child pornography. Even if they were, he says, the statute of limitations has expired.
See previous KSTP coverage of a list of clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing minors here.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)