Police reopen child porn case involving MN priest, Archdiocese - New York News

Police reopen child porn case involving Minn. priest, Archdiocese

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

St. Paul police have reopened their investigation into the possession of child pornography at the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Last Thursday, Vicar General Peter Laird resigned after a police report surfaced in court that revealed the Archdiocese may have known for almost a decade that one of its priests, Rev. Jonathan Shelley, may have had child pornography on an old computer. The Archdiocese allegedly kept Shelley on the job as a parish priest without warning parishioners or police.

On Tuesday, St. Paul Police Public Information Officer Howie Padilla said the department received new information that warranted a new look in the case, which first surfaced in 2004 after a citizen bought Shelley's computer at a church rummage sale.

"The reopening of the investigation does not mean that charges are imminent -- doesn't mean they are not imminent," Padilla told FOX 9 News. "What it means is there are questions, and we are going to try to get answers to those questions."

Joe Ternus was the one who originally discovered the pornography on Shelley's computer. His father had gotten the computer from St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi, Minn., where Shelley was working at the time.

When Ternus checked over the computer it before giving it to his children, he saw at least a half-dozen images of adult pornography and turned the hard drive over to the Archdiocese.

According to police reports, a forensic computer technician hired by the Archdiocese downloaded thousands of pornographic images, including what he believed to be child pornography from Shelley's computer.

In a report, a forensic computer tech wrote that Shelley downloaded those images, including at least one of a young boy performing oral sex on another male; however, that report and the files themselves remained in a box in the rectory vault until earlier this year when former chancellor Jennifer Haselberger discovered them and again went to police after she says other church officials refused to.

Investigators determined there was no child pornography on the three CDs of images obtained from the Archdiocese, and Shelley's original computer was destroyed -- but Ternus found another copy of images from the hard drive and gave them to investigators on Friday.

"We received some new information. We're going to examine it for evidentiary value and see if there is any follow-up we need to do," Padilla said.

Police are currently reviewing those images; however, Shelley's attorney insists his client only downloaded adult pornography, not child pornography. Even so, a former church lawyer says more should have been done when handling the case.

Vicar General Peter Laird resigned last week just hours after Shelley's case came up in court. Shelley is currently on leave from the Archdiocese, and claims he did not do anything illegal.

ARCHDIOCESE STATEMENT (OCT. 4)

Over the past few days, there have been multiple media reports concerning the conduct of a number of priests going back many years. Unfortunately, these reports are incomplete and leave a false impression about the commitment of the Archdiocese to identify and address misconduct by priests. It is critical to understand that our standard is zero tolerance for sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult and absolute accountability.

Since 2002 we have implemented a long list of policy and procedural reforms to clarify guidelines and strengthen enforcement. Some of the actions we have taken include completing more than 3,000 adult safe environment training sessions for approximately 70,000 adults; conducting 105,000 background checks on clergy, staff and volunteers; and providing over 100,000 children with age-appropriate lessons to help keep them safe.

As a further demonstration of our commitment to handling these matters aggressively and consistently, we have formed a special task force and charged them with conducting a full review of our policies and practices. When the report is complete, the findings and recommendations will be released publicly.

We are deeply sorry for any harm that has come from clergy misconduct. Eliminating any form of abuse is the highest priority for the Archdiocese. Our record is not perfect, but we have made great progress, and we are determined to do whatever is necessary to eliminate this problem.

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