Attorney General Dana Nessel’s vow to clean up the clergy and hold the Roman Catholic Church accountable for covering up sex crimes against children began because of an explosive grand jury hearing in Pennsylvania. That investigation revealed over a thousand children who were abused by priests. The church then later covered up the sex assaults, moving priests quietly to another diocese, and refusing to pursue criminal charges of any kind.
The Michigan AG’s office seized thousands of documents…
Because churches have not been forthcoming when it comes to the claims made against their priests, the Attorney General’s office took the information by force. 1.5 million paper documents and 3.5 million electronic documents were seized and then reviewed by 32 volunteers who put in over thousands of hours of time. The results were staggering – 270 Michigan priests and clergy members were identified as possible abusers, and 552 victims of clergy sexual abuse made allegations that were buried by church officials. AG Nessel has said that she expects the victim count to reach into the thousands by the time this is done.
The first charges against clergy members were filed in 2019, against seven priests…
One of the problems the Attorney General ran into was the issue of Michigan’s statute of limitations. This law says a sex crime can’t be charged after a certain period of time has passed. A number of the crimes uncovered apparently happened so long ago that they can’t be prosecuted under Michigan law. However, the investigation turned up a number of priests who were implicated in child sex abuse, and by the end of 2019 seven priests had been charged with sexually abusing children and more charges were coming down the pipeline.
Since the start of 2020, more charges have been filed in Michigan…
“Our office has made considerable progress in this investigation,” Nessel announced in a press release at the end of last year. “I am extremely proud of the work we have completed so far and am confident our office will continue to investigate these cases as thoroughly as possible to provide justice for victims. We fully expect several more charges will be announced — some as early as January.” And she was right. In the last week, two more priests – this time from Marquette. in Michigan’s upper peninsula have been charged with child sex abuse.
How has the Catholic Church responded to these charges?
The Catholic Church has a long and rather tragic history when it comes to child sexual abuse. For as long as anyone can remember, many in the church have taken the stance that it is more important to protect the church as an institution than to protect the individual people inside it. But that’s changing. The new approach, under Pope Francis, demands accountability from church leaders. In fact, just last month Pope Francis issued new canon law instruction “On the confidentiality of legal proceedings” lifting the “pontifical secret” in cases dealing with sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable persons, and crimes of pedophilia involving children. Priests and other church leaders are now free to report these crimes to law enforcement.
How should you respond to charges of child sex abuse against you?
Being accused of a sex crime – especially against a child – is a very big deal! Here in Michigan, prosecutors take these charges very seriously, and they are difficult to fight. A lot of evidence in these types of cases is based purely on witness testimony and hearsay, which can be extremely difficult to combat, which is why you need a highly skilled and experienced sex crime defense attorney! If you’re ever accused of a sex crime in Michigan, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245 (866 7NoJail). We’ve been doing this successfully for over a quarter century. Our top criminal defense attorneys understand how to fight sex assault charges.