St. Paul police, archdiocese officials meet after chief turns up heat

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 18, 2013 - 9:07 PM

No details of the discussion were disclosed, but more talks are set.

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St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith, left

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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St. Paul police investigators and archdiocese representatives met Wednesday to discuss clergy sex abuse allegations after Chief Thomas Smith had criticized church leaders for not cooperating.

Investigators met with the Rev. Charles Lachowitzer, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as an attorney. Smith’s department said before noon that it would release “basic details” of the meeting later.

But by 4 p.m., the only update provided by the police, via Twitter, was that “officials answered some questions and set plans for discussions in near future to answer others,” adding that further details “will not be public at this time.”

The archdiocese issued a brief statement: “We had a productive and amicable meeting today and concur with the St. Paul Police’s account of our meeting.”

The session was arranged after Smith said Tuesday that church leaders had not been allowing police to conduct interviews.

“I was very happy to see the chief do that,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said. “I think that was necessary, and it was a strategic way, I think, to point certain things out.”

Choi also responded to comments from a former Philadelphia district attorney who told Minnesota Public Radio that prosecutors should convene a grand jury to prod more information out of the archdiocese. Two Minnesota Supreme Court decisions have ruled out the possibility of an “investigative grand jury,” Choi said.

“The Minnesota Supreme Court, for the most part, chastised and took to task a grand jury in Hennepin County and a grand jury in Wabasha County for convening an investigative grand jury,” Choi said.

Grand juries in Minnesota are typically called at the conclusion of a police investigation to determine whether first-degree murder charges should be filed, in cases where attorneys are unsure about charges and want to gauge the public sentiment or to determine if police are at fault in fatal officer-involved shootings.

In other states, investigative grand juries are “robust,” Choi said, and can subpoena witnesses to testify or produce records that are then made public even if no charges are filed. In Minnesota, grand juries cannot reveal such details from their proceedings, which Choi said wouldn’t help compel more transparency.

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea and in the best interest of the public,” Choi said. “We also have to remind ourselves that there’s currently an active police investigation happening, and it would be entirely ineffective and inappropriate to convene a second and separate investigation.”

Choi’s counterparts were supportive of his stance on the issue.

“There may be a point in time where the police investigation is in fact, thoroughly stymied and they [the archdiocese] won’t talk,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. “Then I think that’s something John has to think about doing. But right now, he can’t have a grand jury jump in and investigate and not do it as well as the police. And it won’t be as transparent.”

 

Staff writers Tony Kennedy and Richard Meryhew contributed to this report. Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708 Twitter: @ChaoStrib

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