AG: More charges soon in priest abuse investigation

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says her office may issue more charges against Catholic priests for sexual abuse as early as next month.

The AG made the announcement in a Friday release and also updated the status of her office’s massive investigation into allegations of abuse by priests.

“Our office has made considerable progress in this investigation,” Nessel said in a statement. “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.”

Some 32 volunteers have spent 1,4000 hours to go through millions of pages of documents seized from the state’s seven dioceses in 2018. The state has spent $345,000 to manage electronic documents.

Reviewing the documents from the dioceses of Marquette, Gaylord and Grand Rapids, the Department of Attorney General said it found 270 suspected abusers and 552 victims. It says that the number of victims could rise into the thousands by the time all is said and done.

The AG’s office says it hired a victim advocate to help victims of clergy abuse and that 43 law enforcement officers have undergone training to help future sexual assault victims.

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The office has reviewed 130 cases for charges. About 50 were closed because of statutes of limitations or because the priests involved have died. Forty-five cases are being actively investigated. Twenty-five have been referred back to dioceses.

Charges were filed against seven priests this year. Two of them, Patrick Casey and Brian Stanley, pleaded guilty in their cases. Casey was sentenced to jail. Stanley’s sentencing is scheduled for January.

Three other cases are working their way through the judicial system. Yet another was dismissed, but the AG’s Office is appealing. The last of the seven suspects, Jacob Vellian, lives in India. The AG’s office previously said it will work to extradite him.

Anyone who has been abused by a member of the Catholic church can confidentially report it to the Michigan Attorney General’s Office online or by calling 844.324.3374 during regular business hours. The state says it has received about 640 tips since it launched its investigation.

The state also has a hotline for all victims of sexual assault that offers support and resources: 1.855.VOICES4 (864.2374).