Archbishop John Nienstedt reportedly under criminal investigation

The Rev. John Shelley (left) and Archbishop Nienstedt.
The Rev. John Shelley (left) and Archbishop Nienstedt.

-- Update at bottom --

KSTP's Jay Kolis reports that Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis officials, including Archbishop John Nienstedt, are under criminal investigation in connection with possible child porn found on a computer that belonged to the Rev. John Shelley. (St. Paul PD officials deny Kolis's report. See update at bottom of this post.)

THE BACKSTORY: St. Paul police reopen child porn investigation aimed at priest Jon Shelley

Thousands of pornographic images, some featuring people who may or may not have been minors, were found on Rev. Shelley's computer back in 2004. The situation was brought to the attention of the archdiocese shortly after the images were discovered, but police weren't informed until Jennifer Haselberger, the former canonical attorney for the archdiocese, flouted high-ranking church officials who wanted to keep the matter under wraps and finally contacted law enforcement earlier this year.

The St. Paul PD's investigation was closed without any charges being filed this fall, but reopened just days later after the man who initially discovered Rev. Shelley's porn provided police with more images he copied from the computer.

This time around, the St. Paul PD's investigation reportedly goes all the way to the top. From Kolis's report:

Sources tell 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS officials at the Archdiocese are part of a criminal investigation by St. Paul Police, including Archbishop John Nienstedt and former Vicar-General Father Peter Laird...

St. Paul Police closed their case into the child pornography when they could not find enough evidence to charge Shelley. But, sources tell KSTP, police are looking at "everything" connected to the case, including possible obstruction of justice, failure to report possible sexual abuse as required by the state's mandatory reporting statute and possible child endangerment.

In response to Kolis's report, the archdiocese released a statement promising to "cooperate fully, as we did in the police's previous 7-month investigation that found no evidence of child pornographic material."

"We take very seriously matters of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy," the statement continues. "We encourage anyone who has been a victim of such sexual abuse to report it to police and to the Archdiocese."

In related news, on Saturday, about 100 people gathered outside the Cathedral of St. Paul to call for Archbishop Nienstedt's resignation.

:::: UPDATE ::::

During a news conference yesterday, St. Paul PD spokesman Howie Padilla denied Kolis's report.

From the Pioneer Press:

"At this moment, at this time that we're speaking, Archbishop John Nienstedt and former vicar general Father Peter Laird are not the focus of investigation as we sit here and talk," Padilla said. "Does that mean they won't be later on? It does not. What it means is they aren't at this moment."

He said the two are "not the center of our investigation at this time, and as a matter of fact, at this moment as we stand here this day, they're not being investigated."

But Padilla also said, "We are not going to limit the focus of this investigation."

"We are going to do the same as we said at day one -- follow this investigation to the path that it takes us," he said.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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