May 24, 2019
LANSING – Five men who were priests have been charged with a total of 21 counts of criminal sexual conduct, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced at a news conference this morning in Lansing. Four of the men have been arrested; one awaits extradition in India. A sixth Michigan priest is facing an administrative complaint and his license as a professional educationally limited counselor has been summarily suspended by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).
“In the last 30 hours, more than a dozen members of our investigative team have been in courtrooms in Washtenaw, Wayne, Genesee, Macomb and Berrien Counties while other members of our team have been working with local law enforcement in Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan – all in a carefully executed plan to take these charged defendants off the streets,” said Nessel. “Almost all of these charges came as a direct result of calls to our tip line but were then corroborated by files seized from the dioceses last fall, followed by multiple interviews with victims.
“Although we have charged these men with very serious crimes, I want to remind everyone that they are innocent until proven guilty by a court of law,” cautioned Nessel.
Charges were filed as follows:
In addition, the professional educationally limited counselor’s license of Lawrence Ventline, a priest with the Archdiocese of Detroit, was summarily suspended by LARA last week and the Attorney General has filed an administrative licensing complaint against him.
Nessel was joined by Deputy Solicitor General Ann Sherman, who said, “It is my hope, as a Catholic and a public servant, that we can bring all predators to justice, creating a path toward healing for the victims of the sexual abuse scandal and underscoring the need for the Catholic Church to be transparent and to report sexual abuse to appropriate law enforcement.”
Andy Russell, who was a victim of Father James Francis Raap spoke at the news conference as well, urging Nessel to continue the fight to go after clergy abuse and reminding victims to call the hotline. “I got justice and I want justice for everyone else. That’s why I am here – to make sure this attorney general gets the support she needs to keep doing this.”
Nessel praised the team of 44 attorneys, special agents and Michigan State Police troopers who have worked around the clock as part of the Attorney General’s investigative team, following up on tips received on the Attorney General’s tip line (844-324-3374; mi.gov/clergyabuse) and scouring hundreds of thousands of pages of documents seized from Michigan’s seven dioceses in October.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Nessel said. “This is about taking on large-scale institutions that turn a blind eye to victims and making certain we hold all of them accountable – that includes unapologetically pursuing any and all individuals who abuse their power by victimizing our residents.”