MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — WCCO-TV has learned that a long-scheduled hearing in the civil case against the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul could result in a historic settlement in the criminal case.
The criminal case involves a priest who molested three young Minnesota boys. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Ramsey County District Court.
In June of last year, the archdiocese was charged in both civil and criminal cases for failing to protect children from an abusive priest, Father Curtis Wehmeyer.
In 2012, Wehmeyer pleaded guilty to assaulting two of the brothers in a camper outside Blessed Sacrament Church in St. Paul. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to assaulting the third brother back in 2011 in Wisconsin.
For more than a year, the archdiocese has faced six criminal charges, three for contributing for the need for child protective services and three for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Wehmeyer has completed his criminal sentence in Minnesota and is now serving time in Wisconsin for the assault there. The June 2015 complaint against the archdiocese spells out in detail what top archdiocese officials, including then Archbishop John Nienstedt, former Vicar General Kevin Mcdonough and Bishop Lee Piche, knew about Wehmeyer’s predatory behavior and how they allegedly failed to act to keep children safe.
Law Professor Charles Reid said he would not be surprised to see a settlement of the criminal case that stops short of a guilty plea.
“I think the most likely option would be some kind of conditioned dismissal,” Reid said. “You have to negotiate the conditions, you have to satisfy the conditions.”
The filing of the criminal charges against the archdiocese last June led within days to the resignation of Nienstedt and the appointment of interim Archbishop Bernard Hebda.
Four months ago, Hebda was named by the Vatican as Nienstedt’s permanent replacement and was installed as archbishop in April.
Sources say any possible agreement announced on Wednesday would involve the agreement to release internal documents, including potentially explosive portions of the archdiocese’s own investigations into Nienstedt as well as Wehmeyer.
Neither the archdiocese or the Ramsey County Attorney’s office would comment for this story.