MO--Judge rules against victims support group
For immediate release: Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016
Judge rules against victims support group
In an unusual civil lawsuit filed by a Catholic priest who has been accused and arrested for reportedly molesting two youngsters, a federal judge on Monday ordered serious sanctions against a support group.
Seeking money damages, Fr. Joseph Jiang is suing two police officers, the city prosecutor, the mom of an alleged child sex abuse victim and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). The priest is seeking some SNAP emails and records that include the identities of and information about his alleged child sex abuse victims and others.
But SNAP hasn’t turned over those documents, saying that information about the alleged victims and others is deemed confidential under a Missouri law that safeguards those who say they’ve been raped.
“Giving an alleged child molester private information about alleged victims will scare others from coming forward to police, prosecutors, therapists and support groups like ours and others,” said SNAP Executive Director David Clohessy.
"We respect the judge and the Court,” Clohessy said. "But we face what we believe is a Catch-22, a conflict between the Court's Order and the requirements of Missouri law ensuring confidentiality."
Clohessy stressed that neither SNAP, its employees, nor any of the alleged child victims' family, all of whom Fr. Jiang is suing for money, have placed their confidential communications and information provided to SNAP at issue.
"We and others being sued did nothing to warrant giving anyone, especially the alleged abuser, this type of confidential information under the law," Clohessy said. "We all were just sued. We are not seeking money. But Fr. Jiang is wants money. And we believe he wants to frighten others who may know about his alleged crimes into keeping quiet.”
Clohessy believes that the "scary upshot" of this ruling is that any alleged abuser or sexual predator who cannot find his alleged victims for a potentially dangerous purpose, but knows they talked with a rape crisis center, can "just file a federal lawsuit against his victims and the center, get private communications and intimidate his victim – and other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers - into staying silent."
"This need for confidentiality to protect the safety of alleged victims is exactly what the Missouri Supreme Court found was one of the key purposes of the confidentiality requirements of the law Missouri enacted," Clohessy stated. "That court reversed the Missouri trial court's order granting production, finding it was improper. But now there’s a loophole to get around Missouri law on confidentiality -- sue the alleged victims and the rape crisis center in federal court."
Clohessy said that SNAP violated the court order because of its mission to protect kids, help victims, stop abuse, and because of the “awful choice” it faced in complying with the order or violating Missouri law. SNAP explained its dilemma to the court in two motions – one to reconsider and another seeking immediate appeal - but the Court denied those efforts.
"In good conscience and with no disrespect, we did what we believe we had to do," Clohessy said.
"We knew this severe sanction was a possibility. But this issue is so important to our mission of providing legitimately confidential services to victims, and to other groups that help crime victims, that we had no real choice," Clohessy said. "Once private information is given to accused child molester, the cat is out of the bag forever, and we truly worry about what this may do to future victims' willingness to come forward."
SNAP says it’s weighing its legal options.
Fr. Jiang is, to SNAP's knowledge, the only alleged child-molesting cleric to ever file a suit like this and the only Missouri priest to sue the mother and father of an alleged child sex abuse victim. (Case Number: 4:15-cv-01008-CEJ). Fr. Jiang is believed to be close to Archbishop Robert Carlson.
In its filings, SNAP contends that the alleged “conspiracy” is impossible because SNAP leaders had no contact with victims, their parents or law enforcement until AFTER Fr. Jiang was arrested. In both cases, SNAP learned of the arrest through the news media. SNAP contends that Archbishop Carlson is the driving force behind Fr. Jiang’s suit and/or could stop it. SNAP also charges that Fr. Jiang’s legal move is a “SLAPP,” a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, designed to scare and discourage victims, witnesses and whistleblowers into staying silent.
“This is a serious threat to other groups that serve victims of domestic and sexual violence and other crimes,” said Clohessy. “We’re convinced Catholic officials are desperately trying to de-fund, discredit, distract us while scaring police, prosecutors, parents, victims, witnesses and whistleblowers into keeping quiet and not reach out for help.”
“We feel that Fr. Jiang and Archbishop Carlson are desperately trying to protect their reputations and careers by scaring victims, witnesses and whistleblowers into staying silent,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “They’re being bullies and trying hard to protect their reputations and careers, instead of protecting boys, girls and abuse victims.”
Despite an official national church policy mandating “openness” in pedophile priest cases, Archbishop Carlson refuses to reveal where Fr. Jiang is living, why he had a bedroom in Carlson’s home and why Fr. Jiang followed Carlson from city to city (a highly unusual arrangement in the Catholic Church). Carlson also refuses to address an allegation that
Fr. Jiang admitted to a Lincoln County girl’s parents that he’d molested their daughter and that Carlson tried to get the parents to return a $20,000 check that the priest reportedly gave them after he admitted his crimes. SNAP wants Carlson to honor his pledges to be “transparent” and publicly disclose this information.
And SNAP wants Carlson to order Fr. Jiang to “drop this intimidating hurtful, legal maneuver.”
In June 2012, Fr. Jiang was arrested and charged with repeatedly molesting the Lincoln County girl. He was charged with alleged child sex crimes and “victim tampering.” In November 2013, those charges were dismissed. According to a pending civil suit brought by the girl, Carlson was “supervising Fr. Jiang very closely,” “knew that (he) was a danger to children” and abused the girl while “living in the archbishop’s home.”
In April 2014, Fr. Jiang was arrested on charges of repeatedly molesting a St. Louis city boy between 2011-2012 at the Cathedral Catholic school in the Central West End. Those charges were dropped in June 2015. Prosecutors said, however, that they hope to re-file the case. The boy’s parents have not filed a civil suit. Nevertheless, Fr. Jiang is suing them (along with SNAP, two police officers, a prosecutor and St. Louis City).
In 2012, in a similar but “less intrusive and frightening move,” a Kansas City judge ordered SNAP to turn over records to an accused priest (Fr. Michael Tierney) but let the group redact victims’ names, citing a Missouri statute that protects staff and clients of rape crisis centers. In that case, editorials in the New York Times, The Washington Post, the National Catholic Reporter and the Post-Dispatch backed SNAP’s position.
Fr. Jiang is represented by John Sauer (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org). SNAP is represented, pro bono, by Amy Lorenz-Moser (312 4980, email@example.com) and Dan Carpenter (firstname.lastname@example.org). Justin Assouad (241 6160, JLA@heplerbroom.com) and Gerard Noce (241 6160,GTN@heplerbroom.com) represents Archbishop Carlson. Fr. Jiang’s criminal attorney is Paul D’Agrosa (725 8443, email@example.com). One of Jiang’s alleged victims (the Lincoln County girl) is represented by Ken Chackes (369 3902 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org) and Nicole Gorovsky (872 8420, email@example.com).