ST. LOUIS — A group for clergy sex-abuse victims made false statements “negligently and with reckless disregard for the truth” against a St. Louis priest to try to convict him on abuse charges, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson said that the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) failed to comply with a court order that the group supply details about those who accused Father Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang of sexual abuse. This made it impossible for him to litigate the claims against him.
Jackson said the court will establish that SNAP’s statements “were false and that they did not conduct any inquiry into the truth or falsity of these public statements.”
The court will also establish that defendants conspired to secure Father Jiang’s conviction on sex abuse charges due to “discriminatory animus against plaintiff based on his religion, religious vocation, race, and national origin,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newpsaper.
SNAP must cover Father Jiang’s “reasonable expenses, including attorneys’ fees,” the court said.
The priest was criminally charged in 2014 of sexually abusing a boy in a Catholic school bathroom in 2011 and 2012. St. Louis prosecutors dropped the charges last year. Father Jiang had been previously accused of improper contact with a teenage girl who attended the Basilica of St. Louis, where he was associate pastor. Charges of child endangerment and witness tampering were dropped in 2013.
Soon after the criminal charges were dropped, Father Jiang filed a lawsuit alleging conspiracy and defamation against the boy’s parents and SNAP executives David Clohessy and Barbara Dorris. The lawsuit also charged that police wrongly pursued him based on his religious and racial background.
The judge’s sanctions reportedly apply specifically to SNAP, not other defendants.
On June 27 the judge had ordered that the group provide detailed information about those making complaints against Father Jiang, including emails, text messages and contact information. The group argued that its information was protected by a “rape crisis center privilege.”
The judge said such a privilege doesn’t exist. She said SNAP made “repeated assertions of a nonexistent privilege” when it could have proposed alternatives like targeted redaction of names of third-party victims or made disclosures for attorneys-eyes only.
SNAP said it turned over “hundreds of pages” of redacted documents to the priest’s lawyers. Clohessey said SNAP was concerned about “the ability of victims and alleged victims to report predators and be protected.” He told the Post-Dispatch that the lawsuit sought “to make sure that yet another alleged victim, witness or whistleblower stays silent.”
The group also refused Judge Jackson’s order to turn over all records of donations it received from the law firm Chackes, Carlson & Gorovosky, a firm that has handled sex-abuse cases. Clohessey said the firm donated its services to SNAP from the years 2005-2012. He said he does not know why the priest’s lawyers want the information.