Lansing, Michigan -- Attorney General Dana Nessel announced charges Friday in connection to her office's investigation into possible sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Michigan.
The attorney general announced five Michigan priests face criminal sexual conduct charges.
Here are the charges:
Overall, 21 counts of criminal sexual conduct have been issued.
"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."
Moreover, Nessel said that 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 also said her office has received more than 400 tips since the start of this year. Victims are encouraged to report any suspected abuse to law enforcement officers rather than church officials on the state’s clergy abuse hotline at 844-324-3374 or online at www.michigan.gov/clergyabuse.
Could be more than 1,000 victims
In Feburary, Nessell said she believes there could be as many as 1,000 victims. Hundreds of thousands of documents are being reviewed by authorities.
Since 2002, the Archdiocese of Detroit has not entered into any nondisclosure agreements, unless specifically requested by a survivor of abuse, as required by the Catholic Church.
The archdiocese does not enforce any nondisclosure agreements signed prior to 2002.
The Archdiocese of Detroit has been asked by the attorney general's office to stop its internal review process. These internal investigations are required under church law, and their purpose is to restrict or remove from ministry anyone who has committed sexual abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult.
Nessel also challenged the dioceses to set up a fund for victims to be administered by the Attorney General’s office so that victims may get the help needed for the trauma they experienced.
"These investigations are complex and complicated, but we are committed to uncovering the truth and seeking justice for all the victims,” stated Col. Joseph Gasper, director of the Michigan State Police. “We take all leads and tips seriously, and I encourage anyone with information about these cases to contact law enforcement directly."
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