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Choi: Church officials 'did not fail to comply with the law' in reporting Wehmeyer abuse

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John Choi
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 in St. Paul.
Jennifer Simonson / MPR News

Updated: 3:43 p.m. | Posted: 7:45 a.m.

Ramsey County Attorney John Choi announced Wednesday that authorities would file no further charges in the case of the Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, now serving a prison sentence on charges of child sex abuse. 

Betrayed by Silence | An MPR News investigation

Choi said authorities had investigated whether officials of the Twin Cities archdiocese had failed to report suspicions of abuse in a timely way. He said that while he continued to be troubled by the church's communication practices, he had found no evidence that might persuade a jury.

"We expect all mandated reporters to report instances of child sex abuse as required by law, but more importantly to err on the side of victims," Choi said. "The law is the lowest common denominator of acceptable behavior. Mandated reporters should never, ever make conclusions [about the law] ... or make determinations about the credibility of victims. That is the job of law enforcement, prosecution, and our courts, not private parties." 

Curtis Carl Wehmeyer
OID Number: 240097 Name: CURTIS CARL WEHMEYER Birth Date: 9/28/1964 Current Status: Incarcerated Location: Minnesota Correctional Facility - St Cloud Admit Date: 2/6/2013 Anticipated Release Date **: 5/30/2016 Anticipated Release Type: Supervised Release Date Expiration Date: 1/28/2026 Case Worker: C. McGraw (320) 240-3000 Supervising Agent: Controlling Offense Information *: Offense Description: OBSCENITY-FE-OTHER ACT-OTHER DEPICT MINR-MINOR Offense Modifier: NOT/APPL Minnesota Statute(s): 617.247.4(a) County of Conviction: RAMSEY Court File Number: 62CR128120
Minnesota Department of Corrections

• VIDEO INTERVIEW: St. Paul police chief says victims come first in clergy abuse investigation (Jan. 29, 2014)

St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith had complained in mid-December about a lack of cooperation from archdiocese leaders toward investigators. Choi said church leaders had been more forthcoming since then. 

"Based upon what I understand from police, there has been more cooperation since our chief spoke out about the lack of cooperation, so that's all in process, and everything's on the table and we continue with our investigation," he said.

• Archdiocese not cooperating with clergy abuse investigation, police say (Dec. 17, 2013)

Smith confirmed Choi's characterization. "Have we had more access? Yes, we have," he said. "Can more be done? Yes, it can."

Choi said that "if there are any victims out there, that we encourage them to come forward" to police, even if they have already "entered into any type of settlement" for their claims.

Victims' attorney Jeff Anderson attended the press conference and asked whether authorities might investigate a possible obstruction of justice in the Wehmeyer case. Choi pointed out that Wehmeyer had pleaded guilty and was serving a five-year sentence, and that any balkiness by church leaders had not affected his prosecution.

A spokesman for the archdiocese declined to comment immediately after the news conference but said they will provide a statement later.

Wehmeyer pleaded guilty in November 2012 to three counts of criminal sexual conduct and 17 counts of possession of child pornography after a parish employee learned that he had sexually abused her sons in 2010. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

• MPR News investigation:  Archdiocese knew of priest's sexual misbehavior, yet kept him in ministry

Wehmeyer served most recently as pastor of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul. 

Police have also been looking into an allegation that Archbishop John Nienstedt inappropriately touched a boy on the buttocks in 2009. Nienstedt removed himself from public ministry last month, after the archdiocese encouraged a person within the Catholic church who is required by law to report allegations of abuse to contact law enforcement.

Betrayed by Silence | An MPR News investigation

MPR News reporters Laura YuenMadeleine BaranTim NelsonSasha AslanianMeg Martin and photographer Jennifer Simonson contributed to this report.