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In addition, police records show that McDonough took Wehmeyer’s computer and it wasn’t handed over to police until four days later. It was later found to contain child pornography, and Wehmeyer was convicted on related charges.
“Were my investigators happy?” Police Chief Smith said. “No, they weren’t.”
Choi said the archdiocese’s actions did not negatively affect his prosecution of Wehmeyer, which resulted in a five-year prison term.
The prosecutor said there is no “obstruction-of-justice” statute that would apply, but Minnesota laws relating to “aiding an offender” could still be considered.
The “aiding-the-offender statute is one that is on the table,” Choi said.
In his letter closing the Shelley case, Orput said that three investigators and a prosecutor with experience in child pornography violations ratified a finding by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that none of the images on the priest’s discarded computer was “those of known images of child pornography.”
The archdiocese did not reveal any details about Shelley’s future role in the church. Through an attorney, the priest previously has denied any involvement with viewing or possessing child porn.
“It’s too early to say,” Accurso said.
Observers weigh in
In a statement, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) voiced its displeasure and said authorities need to be more aggressive and creative.
“It’s meaningless for law enforcement officials to say they’re ‘troubled by’ or ‘unhappy about’ the corrupt practices of Catholic officials,” said Frank Meuers, a leader of the state chapter of SNAP. “The verbal displeasure of police and prosecutors, in response to media questions, doesn’t stop or deter crimes. The actions of police and prosecutors stop and deter crimes.”
A spokesman for the Catholic Defense League took issue with Choi’s statement. “The church has made serious mistakes in the past handling abuse cases and has acknowledged that,” David Strom said. “Now, when it is doing exactly the right thing, the authorities make vague accusations that they are ‘troubled’ by actions that they won’t specify and refuse to acknowledge that the church is acting properly.”
Staff writer Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org 612-673-4213 email@example.com • 612-673-4511