Ramsey County Attorney John Choi has filed criminal charges against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis "to hold it criminally accountable for its failure to protect children." The charges are connected to 3 separate victims of sexual abuse by former Catholic priest Curtis Wehmeyer, who is currently serving a 5-year prison sentence for molesting two boys in his parish.
"It is not only Curtis Wehmeyer who is criminally responsible for the harm caused, but it is the archdiocese as well," Choi said at a Friday news conference.
In 2013, Wehmeyer was convicted on 20 felony charges for sexually abusing two minors. He's also charged in Chippewa County, Wisconsin with second-degree sexual assault. Father Wehmeyer was defrocked by Pope Francis just this past March.
No individuals charged
'Facts were ignored'
The charges allege church ignored warnings about Father Wehmeyer being a sexual predator, including his bunking with a child on camping trip to Big Sandy Lake in Aitkin County.
"Facts were ignored, minimized, not shared with other individuals who needed to know," Choi said.
Investigation not finished
The investigation is ongoing and St. Paul police and the Ramsey County attorney's office are renewing their requests for anyone with information to come forward. Statements from more than 50 witnesses and the review of more than 170,000 pages of documents over the past 20 months led to the charges announced Friday.
"This case isn't about religion," St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith said. "It's about allegations of misconduct and crimes committed."
Choi said the archdiocese has been "generally cooperative," but that they were "falsely led to believe" that an effective program to monitor priests had been implemented.