AG Weiser Announces Independent Review Of Past Priest Abuse Allegations In Colorado

Colorado Public Radio

State Attorney General Phil Weiser on Tuesday announced an independent investigation of clerical abuse in the Catholic Church in Colorado, along with other initiatives to support victims.

The review will be conducted by former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer, who left his position in October 2018.

Troyer will have access to archdiocese records and past abuse claims and will produce a public report that will also probe how well the church has responded to past abuse claims.

All three Catholic dioceses in the state will voluntarily participate in the initiative and although it’s not a criminal investigation, Weiser said Tuesday that referrals to law enforcement will be made when relevant.

“This is an independent inquiry with full cooperation of the Catholic church,” Weiser said. “We have a set of dioceses here who came to the table … They’re committed to transparency and they put victims first.”

In Troyer’s report, due out this fall, victims won’t be identified, but names of priests with substantiated allegations of abuse will be, Weiser said.

Denver’s Archbishop Samuel Aquila said there are no active priests in Colorado under “active investigation.” Father Randy Dollins, who works under Aquila and also attended the news conference, told CPR News last September that there had been no new allegations of sexual abuse on a minor in Colorado since 2002.

Aquila acknowledged the process in the coming months will include “painful moments.”

“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest is profound,” Aquila said. “We pray that this will at least begin the healing process. We also acknowledge that the bright light of transparency needs to shine on the church’s history related to child abuse.”

The investigation is paid for, in part, by the Denver Archdiocese and in part by a private fund of cash raised by former Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, who started this effort last year in wake of a sprawling investigation in 2018 by the Pennsylvania attorney general that found hundreds of priests were protected by church leaders over decades.

Aquila noted that the part of the investigation paid for by the church will not come from ministries or charities, but “reserves and assets.”

Weiser and Coffman both said they probed how they could conduct a Pennsylvania-style investigation into past clerical abuse in Colorado — and determined state’s jurisdictional laws does not give the authority to the attorney general to conduct a grand jury.

Coffman said she still felt a nagging obligation to protect Coloradans.

“My senior staff and I began examining alternatives for uncovering previously undisclosed abuse involving Catholic priests in our state,” Coffman said. “We worked with colleagues … across the country including Pennsylvania … to compare approaches.”

Weiser and Coffman also announced a compensation fund for people with credible claims of sexual abuse, with no time limit, funded by the dioceses. This fund will be administered by two experts in victim compensation, who also worked on the Aurora theater shooting. The church won’t have any say on who will get paid.

There will also be and a victims/survivors assistance program that will help people file paperwork for reparations and provide counseling.

That local church leaders stood next to the state’s top lawyer to announce this agreement provided an unprecedented moment in Colorado. By cooperating with Weiser, the church avoids subpoenas or even potential legislation to conduct an investigation — both approaches are ongoing in other states.

Asked what mechanism Weiser has if the church decides to not be forthcoming in Troyer’s investigation, he said transparency. Troyer will note incidences of non-cooperation in his public report.

“It will be called out in the report, thereby providing what I believe is a very powerful check and force for accountability,” Weiser said. “We have a process that we’ve now come to and I want to see us implement this process and in the end … we will see what there is to learn from it.”

The independent investigation will be limited to abuse of minors, Weiser said, but to the extent they hear from other victims — nuns or seminarians, for example — he hopes anyone will eventually be able to access help.

The agreement comes at a time of international reckoning in the Catholic Church regarding clerical abuse. Pope Francis has gathered top bishops in Rome to address the problem, which has been dubbed the biggest crisis in the church since Reformation.

At least 10 other states have launched reviews or investigations and at least 45 other states have at least checked into it, according to news reports.

Read more on CPR.org


16 States File Lawsuit to Stop Trump's National Emergency Declaration


AG Weiser To Join California-Led Challenge To Trump’s Wall Declaration

Colorado Public Radio

BY

February 18, 2019

Colorado's Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser will join a multi-state legal challenge to President Donald Trump's national emergency declaration.

Weiser’s office said Sunday that the California-led effort plans to stop Trump's intention to divert money to build a southern border wall. The lawsuit will likely challenge the declaration’s constitutionality.

“We have fewer people going over the border today than anytime in quite some time,” Weiser told Colorado Matters. “And so to say that constitutes an emergency begs the question, ‘Something is not as bad as it was before when it was an emergency, and it's one now.’ That's a scary precedent.”

Weiser said the diversion of funds from federal military budgets could impact the state. The presence of those impacts will be key to Colorado — and other states — having standing to sue Trump in federal court.

“We as citizens need to be heard,” Weiser said. “I’m going to make sure that my voice on this is heard, that we all talk about the rule of law and are committed to protecting our nation as one that operates under the rule of law.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said this weekend that he is “confident there are at least 8 billion ways that we can prove harm” in the lawsuit, referring to the amount of federal money that will likely get redirected toward the wall.

Trump made the emergency declaration Friday, freeing billions of dollars up from military budgets to build the wall he made central to his presidential campaign in 2016.

The lawsuit has not been filed, but Becerra said Sunday that it was “imminent."

Read More on CPR.org...


New Colorado AG paves way for Clarence Moses-EL to receive $2M in wrongful conviction settlement

The Denver Post

A Denver man who spent 28 years in a Colorado prison for a crime he didn’t commit finally will get compensated by the state for his years behind bars.

At a news conference Thursday morning, new Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that the state will not oppose the petition of Clarence Moses-EL, who will receive nearly $2 million under the Colorado Exoneration Act.

He will be the second person to receive compensation under the 2013 law.

Weiser said the decision will save the state resources by not having to defend a case it would lose in court. He added that the justice system needs to do a better job in the future of preserving DNA evidence.

“This case is a travesty of justice,” Weiser said. “We will thus bring an end to this case and avoid the parties from having to relive this experience, and save the cost of bringing this to a full trial.”

The previous attorney general, Cynthia Coffman, in November elected to push the civil lawsuit into the next administration. Coffman had fought against compensating Moses-EL, arguing that just because a jury acquitted him at his retrial, that does not prove he’s innocent.

Moses-EL was convicted in 1987 of raping and beating a neighbor and sentenced to 48 years in prison. From the beginning, he insisted he was innocent and that the victim falsely identified him.

“Mr. Moses-EL is grateful to Attorney General Weiser for working to heal the harm that has been done to him by the state of Colorado,” Gail Johnson, one of Moses-EL’s attorneys, said in a statement. “Although no amount of money can give Mr. Moses-EL back the half of his life that was lost to the Colorado prison system, this compensation will help him and his family recover from this traumatic ordeal.”

Weiser pointed to the destruction of DNA evidence as a critical blunder that should not be fought by his office.

“We have to learn from this … tragic mistake and action,” he said. “It’s costly to the state … there is, I believe, now a clear and powerful example of both the financial and human costs.”

Weiser said he spoke to the victim in this case, alerting her of his decision. The case remains unsolved.

“She’s remarkable, in that she’s been through a lot,” the attorney general said. “She understood that the legal situation here required me to act in this way.”

Weiser said he did not speak directly with Moses-EL before making his decision, only to his attorneys.

The circumstances behind this case raised questions from the outset, with several twists and turns through the years.

Moses-EL’s accuser identified him as the attacker after a dream while medicated and hospitalized because of injuries received in the incident. Denver police then mistakenly destroyed DNA evidence. Later, another inmate confessed to the crime, but recanted.

After a judge in 2015 granted him a new trial, Moses-EL refused to accept a plea bargain in the case. Then, in November 2016, a jury acquitted him after the retrial.

During his campaign, Weiser indicated he would be open to exploring a settlement in the case.

The Colorado Exoneration Act compensates wrongly convicted individuals $70,000 for each year they spent behind bars. For Moses-EL, that equates to nearly $2 million.

Fourteen days after the court orders directed payment, he will receive $100,000, said Lawrence Pacheco, spokesman for the attorney general. Moses-EL can then receive a lump sum after a year, Pacheco said, adding that the state court administrator is responsible for payment.

He still has a separate civil rights lawsuit pending against the city, a former district attorney and police investigators, seeking unspecified damages.

Since his release from prison, Moses-EL has spoken around the world about his wrongful conviction, along with mentoring at-risk children.

Read More at DenverPost.com


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