The Stearns County Sheriff’s Office is investigating three cases of alleged sex abuse by priests for possible criminal prosecution, said Sheriff Jim Kostreba. He declined to provide details about the cases but said recently that the investigations began several weeks ago and that some are related, at least in part, to a recent lawsuit filed against priests.
St. Paul attorney Jeff Anderson, who sued two St. John’s Abbey priests on behalf of two plaintiffs last month, said his clients have reported abuse to authorities. He believes that the investigations stem from those conversations with authorities.
Anderson’s suit claims that the Revs. Dunstan Moorse and Allen Tarlton abused a former prep school student as late as 1985. Tarlton and Moorse are on restriction at the abbey for alleged sexual misconduct.
Anderson said another client of his also talked to authorities about a third priest who is a member of the St. Cloud Diocese. He would not name the priest.
Kostreba said he hasn’t yet determined whether the cases he’s investigating fall within the statute of limitations for criminal prosecution.
Minnesota’s criminal statute of limitations is complex, but officials said recently that a little-understood law extends the statute in some cases of child sexual abuse.
Under the law, a person can be prosecuted for sexually abusing a person younger than 18 on or after Aug. 1, 1984, provided that the victim didn’t report the misconduct to a law-enforcement agency more than three years ago.
Advocates say that many victims of sexual abuse by priests have never gone to law-enforcement officials, which means the offense could be chargeable as long as it occurred on or after Aug. 1, 1984.
But a problem in prosecuting such cases remains. The more time that elapses before the abuse is reported, the harder it is to prove.
Anderson said he believes that prosecutions are possible.
“I have every reason to believe they’re going to [investigate] and that it’s going to lead to criminal prosecution,” he said.
The Rev. William Skudlarek, abbey spokesman, declined to comment, saying that a call from the Star Tribune seeking comment was the first he had heard about it.
Responding to Anderson’s suit, the abbey filed court papers claiming that the statute of limitations on civil matters prohibits the suit from going forward.
The abbey’s answer also asks the court to separate the claims into individual suits.
The suit was filed by Bill Quenroe of Minneapolis and a person identified only as John Doe 43.
– Staff writer Paul McEnroe and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
– Pam Louwagie is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Minneapolis Star Tribune 07-13-2002