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Archdiocese begins handover of 60,000 sex abuse documents

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In the first of what will be many such handovers, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis began giving documents related to clergy sex abuse to prosecutors as part of an upcoming civil lawsuit, KSTP reports.

In all, there are 60,000 documents expected to be handed over – some of which date back to the 1970s and include hand-written notes. The files, concerning at least 33 priests, were all supposed to be turned over Monday, two days before Archbishop John Nienstedt's deposition. But due to the sheer number of documents a judge gave the archdiocese some leeway.

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The archdiocese acknowledged the start of the process in a news release, and said the files all pertained to four former priests accused of sexual abuse. All four were previously publicly disclosed as being accused of sexual abuse.

"The archdiocese deeply regrets the egregious acts of these men and the unimaginable harm suffered by victims, their families and their communities," the news release says. "We will never cease our apologies to all affected."

The following priests and details come from Monday's news release:

– Paul Palmitessa: In 1990, an adult male reported he had been abused by Palmitessa in 1982. The archdiocese says it did not learn of any abuse allegations until that time. In 1999, the victim of Palmitessa's abuse killed his wife and committed suicide. The archdiocese says it's received reports he may have abused others.

– Kenneth LaVan: In 1988, the archdiocese says it receivedreports he abused two girls between 1958 and 1970. Civil suits related to the accusations were settled in 1989 and 1992. LaVan also completed a treatment program and was returned to the a ministry in Lino Lakes. He retired in 1998. He's also been accused of inappropriate sexual relationships with adult women.

– John Michael Stevens: Removed from public ministry in 1987 after the archdiocese learned he had abused a mentally challenged minor.Stevens pleaded guilty later that year, and was not returned to parish. He worked as an archdiocesan IT consultant until November of last year however.

– Curtis Wehmeyer: Currently in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing two boys and possessing child pornography.

Despite the deadline flexibility, Judge John Van de North expects all files relating to abuse under Nienstedt’s watch – beginning in 2007 – to be turned over by the original March 31 deadline. Jeff Anderson, one of the attorneys for the victim – known as John Doe 1 – said he intends on making as much of the depositions public as soon as he can.

John Doe 1 claims he was abused by former priest Tom Adamson in the 1970s – after the archdiocese was made aware of previous sexual misconduct claims against Adamson.

“Until the past is known, the future is uncertain as to the safety of our children,” Anderson said. “So it really becomes I think a public policy imperative to get this out.”

Nienstedt's deposition is in response to the lawsuit, brought by an unidentified plaintiff who claims he is a clergy abuse victim. Former Vicar General Kevin McDonough is also due to be deposed as well. That will come April 16.

The archdiocese says more documents will be released in the coming weeks. The trial is slated to start Sept. 22.

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