St. Paul police investigators did not find sufficient evidence that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis failed to report in a timely way the conduct of former St. Paul priest Curtis Wehmeyer, now serving a five-year prison sentence for molesting two boys, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said.
At issue is whether church officials reported specific abuse within 24 hours of learning about it. Critics have suggested that the archdiocese attempted to cover up the case. A September MPR News investigation reported that church officials knew of Wehmeyer's sexual compulsions for a decade but kept him in the ministry.
But police, after a "thorough" investigation, could not find enough evidence that the archdiocese violated the mandatory reporting law, Choi said at a Wednesday morning news conference.
That said, Choi went to some length to stress that an investigation of archdiocese officials on a "whole host of issues" is "active and ongoing."
In fact, in an interview with the Pioneer Press, St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith said the department is running seven investigations into allegations of abuse or inappropriate sexual behavior involving priests. "We're not going to leave any stone unturned," the chief told the newspaper.
Choi said he was "troubled" by the church's reporting practices. He added, "There will be more decisions to come as this investigation unfolds." He stressed that he could not comment further yet. "Elaboration is for another day."
Choi was joined by Smith, and both urged any victims of priest abuse to come forward.
"I hope they continue to come forward if there are more victims out there," Smith said.
Smith in recent weeks had said the archdiocese was not being fully cooperative in the investigation. Smith on Wednesday said the archdiocese more recently had given police more access, but added, "Can more be done? Yes it can."
The archdiocese has been under a barrage of fire from critics about its handling of priest abuse scandals, which has been the subject of an MPR News investigation.
In other news Wednesday, the Washington County Attorney's Office has decided it will not pursue charges against a priest accused of possessing child pornography, MPR News reported. Investigators in October re-opened their investigation of computer files belonging to a priest who in recent years served in Hugo and Mahtomedi parishes.