Metro Detroit school threats, charges have 'spiked exponentially' since Oxford shooting

Attorneys reviewing 'massive' number of documents in Catholic Church investigation

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office is working around the clock and then some in its review of thousands of pages of information seized from Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses.

More than 25 assistant attorneys general are assigned to the investigation, in addition to their other assignments, and several regularly work for free on the weekends to process the "massive" amounts of information, said Nessel’s spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney.

The department will be in a position to announce charges related to the investigation soon, Rossman-McKinney said.

The volunteers were recognized by Nessel on social media Sunday when she posted a photo of attorneys examining paperwork in a room crowded with boxes and filing cabinets.

“They get no extra compensation, and remain responsible for their regular caseload during the week, but these lawyers are so dedicated to protecting the public that they sacrifice spending time with their families in order to protect yours,” Nessel wrote on Twitter.

Many documents under review were seized during simultaneous raids on Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses in October, a couple of months after former Attorney General Bill Schuette began an investigation into clergy sexual abuse and the church's handling of such complaints.

The search warrant for the October raids remains under seal in a Lansing district court "to preserve the integrity of the investigation," Rossman-McKinney said.

The review started shortly after a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania found hundreds of abuser priests had molested more than 1,000 children since the 1940s. Michigan’s investigation will investigate cases dating back to the 1950s.

The investigation is expected to last roughly two years. In March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked the state Legislature for a $2 million supplemental allocation for the investigation, money that would come from state settlement funds.

Last month, another 15 assistant attorneys general were added to the core team of investigators, Rossman-McKinney said. The “weekend warriors” have been reviewing the documentation since the fall, but efforts have increased in recent months.

“Once they began to see, really, how horrific the work in front of them is, they’re compelled to work even harder,” she said.

The department has received 430 tips since January, the majority after a Feb. 21 press conference where Nessel encouraged victims to call the department even if they had signed nondisclosure agreements.

At the press conference, Nessel told victims that they should ask to see investigators’ “badge and not their rosary.” She also claimed dioceses were not cooperating with the investigation.

The state’s dioceses said after the press conference that they have been and continue to cooperate with the attorney general’s investigation.

Some dioceses remain “less than cooperative,” Rossmany-McKinney said Monday,  but others “are much more proactive in terms of providing us with information.” She declined to say which ones were cooperative.

Since the Feb. 21 press conference, which some critics called anti-Catholic, Nessel has received several anti-Semitic emails, including ones that contain death threats, Rossman-McKinney said.

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