Michigan AG asks for $2M to investigate priests

Target 8

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is asking for $2 million from the state Legislature for her office’s investigation into sexually abusive Roman Catholic priests.

The money would come from the $5.2 million the state got for its share of the nationwide $575 million Wells Fargo & Company settlement in January, said AG spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney.

“We’re basing it (the request) on how much it took to do the MSU investigation” into sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar, Rossman-McKinney said. “This is larger in terms of depth and breadth.”

The AG’s office in August launched an investigation into clergy abuse at the state’s seven Catholic dioceses. It was prompted by the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation that found 300 priests had molested 1,000 children over decades in that state.

By mid-February, the Michigan AG had received 270 tips. A Target 8 investigation last month into abuse by Catholic priests in the Grand Rapids Diocese led to about three dozen new tips, the AG’s office said.

Target 8 identified 14 priests who had abused 33 children since the late 1950s. Some of the offenders are still living in West Michigan, collecting pensions along with other benefits from the church.

Since Nessel held a Feb. 21 news conference about the statewide investigation, her office has received about 50 more tips, bringing the total number to 360, Rossman-McKinney said. The AG has said there could be as many as 1,000 victims and survivors in Michigan.

“It’s very clear to us there will be criminal charges (against priests),” Rossman-McKinney said, though she didn’t know when that would happen.

Rossman-McKinney also said following Target 8’s investigation, the Grand Rapids Diocese has become “more cooperative” with the AG’s office.

“We got several communications from the Diocese with information on clergy — victims who had reported it to the church and the church hadn’t shared it with us yet,” she explained.

On Thursday, spokeswoman Annalise Laumeyer said the Grand Rapids Diocese has cooperated from the start of the investigation, sharing every allegation of abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult reported to the Diocese with the assistant attorney general.

Laumeyer also said the Diocese volunteered to turn over files to the attorney general’s office before it executed a search warrant in October. The AG’s office, working with Michigan State Police seized hundreds of thousands of pages of records from all seven Michigan diocesan offices during that search.

Nessel told Target 8 that her office will pursue criminal charges for any sexual abuse against children since 1995, as far back as it can go under the statute of limitations. It will also pursue any diocesan officials who shuffled pedophile priests between churches, dioceses and states, she said.

Rossman-McKinney said the AG hasn’t kept track of how much the priest investigation has cost so far “because we’ve been doing this all internally.”

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