Seven of 10 cases in Ramsey County alleging clergy sexual abuse have been closed without the filing of criminal charges due to restrictions in the law, the death of the suspects and other complications.
Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said Friday that his office has decided not to file charges in three cases and that St. Paul police have closed four more cases without presenting them to his office for prosecutorial review.
Three cases investigated by St. Paul police remain open.
“I want to thank the victims for coming forward,” Choi said. “I wish that we could do more in these three [declined] cases but the reality is that the statute of limitations prevents it.”
Choi had predicted last month that the state’s statute of limitations on bringing charges in cases involving the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis would be a challenge. The statute is complex, with a number of qualifications and exceptions that make it difficult to apply broadly.
However, Choi said that the statute is unlikely to affect the three remaining cases investigated by St. Paul police. He also confirmed Friday that his office is reviewing a fourth case investigated by the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.
News that authorities closed seven cases without charges upset attorney Jeff Anderson, who has represented clergy sex abuse victims in civil suits across Minnesota and the country, and abuse survivor Frank Meuers.
Anderson and Meuers both said that authorities need to push the church for access, and should be filing search warrant affidavits instead of relying on the church to voluntarily divulge information.
“I think if it was you, you would have been arrested. Your house would have been searched,” said Meuers, a Minnesota representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “And that simply hasn’t happened” with the church.
Anderson said that while he understands the restrictions of the statute of limitations, police would uncover evidence of the crimes they’re investigating as well as evidence of new crimes if they executed search warrants.
Choi defended police investigative tactics Friday, saying that they have received the information they needed from the church. Search warrants will be used if deemed necessary, he said.
St. Paul police closed four cases involving five suspects. One case involved two suspects, both of whom are dead. In a second case, the victim could not identify his alleged abuser from a series of photos. A third case was deemed “not provable” when the victim said the abuse occurred “mystically” and could not provide details.
In the fourth case, the suspect could not be identified.
The seven closed cases involve victims now ages 41 to 67 who were allegedly abused between 1960 and 1990.
Police reports released in those cases reveal the names of suspects who haven’t been named by the church in their lists of credibly accused priests.
In one case that Choi declined to prosecute — a 41-year-old man who came forward 29 years after he was allegedly abused in 1984 — the statute of limitations permitted filing charges within three years of the alleged crime.
The victim alleged that when he was 12, he was hired to do yard work for a priest. The victim told police he was getting a drink of water when the suspect grabbed him tightly from behind, squeezed his genitals and tried to untie his shorts’ drawstrings.
The victim was able to flee the house, police reports said.
“Thanks for the hug!” the suspect allegedly said.
Choi said Friday that he plans to ask state lawmakers to consider amending the statute of limitations so it’s more flexible. Authorities continue to investigate church leaders’ response to allegations of abuse.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708