DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Attorneys for accused priest Fr. Eduard Perrone are accusing the Detroit archdiocese of hiding evidence that would expose the archdiocese's wrongdoing.
A motion filed Thursday by Kathleen Klaus, civil attorney for Perrone, argues that text messages, emails, recordings and other files exonerating the priest are missing from the 500-page archdiocesan file on Perrone.
The file had been handed over to his civil attorneys earlier this month, after the archdiocese repeatedly refused to obey a court order compelling production of the file, instead fighting the order multiple times. The archdiocese only capitulated after a rejected appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals for "lack of merit," handed down just before Thanksgiving.
But Perrone's civil attorneys say the archdiocese continues to disobey the court order by hiding crucial files that would expose corruption and malfeasance on the part of archdiocesan investigators.
Perrone was suspended from ministry in July after the archdiocese announced a "credible" allegation of abuse based on one accuser's 40-year-old "repressed memory." In the ensuing months, the allegation has fallen apart, documents showing multiple contradictions in the accuser's testimony — including the Michigan State Police investigative report, in which the accuser flatly denies being able to recall any abuse. His testimony led to state police closing its investigation into Perrone.
Many of the missing files revolve around Msgr. Michael Bugarin, episcopal vicar and the man placed in charge of the Perrone investigation.
Among these is a previously undisclosed Sept. 13, 2018 interview "that completely exonerates Fr. Perrone."
"Had Fr. Perrone not insisted on the recordings of the interviews that were disclosed and transcribed, the AOD would never have revealed this crucial piece of evidence this Court twice ordered the AOD to produce," Klaus argues.
The September interview involves Bugarin and archdiocesan investigator James Smith (a staff member at Bugarin's parish, St. Joan of Arc in St. Clair Shores, Michigan) speaking with the accuser. The archdiocese never disclosed — until last week — that such an interview took place.
Klaus also notes that the archdiocese produced "no emails or text messages to and from G. Michael Bugarin, the AOD cleric in charge of the investigation into the accusations against Fr. Perrone."
Damning text messages from Smith appear to indict the archdiocese while clearing Perrone of guilt.
"Smith's text messages also included information exonerating Fr. Perrone and suggesting the AOD is covering up its botched investigation of the two complaints," Klaus writes.
Further emails are missing involving Bugarin and Margaret Huggard, the archdiocese's victims' assistance coordinator, who conducted her own interview with the accuser.
"The AOD's refusal to produce Bugarin and Huggard's electronic communications and the recordings of the crucial interviews suggests there is additional probative evidence it is hiding," Klaus adds.
In the accuser's interview with Huggard, he reveals he has been under psychological care for most of his life, including being hospitalized for mental and emotional problems. He is on multiple types of medication to deal with his various psychological issues, including psychosis and hallucinations.
These facts raise serious questions about the credibility and reliability of the accuser's 40-year-old "repressed memory." It also raises questions about how the archdiocesan review board could have come to the conclusion that his allegation was "credible," with critics asking whether Bugarin misrepresented the evidence to the review board before it made its decision.
According to Perrone's civil attorneys, the "key interview from July 2, 2019" involving Bugarin and Macomb County Detective Sgt. Nancy LePage was also missing. LePage conducted an investigation on behalf of the Macomb County Sheriff's Department, but also helped conduct an interview with the accuser on her own time. She is also a member of Bugarin's parish.
As Church Militant reported, in the July interview, LePage and Bugarin coached, pressured and manipulated the accuser to make incriminating statements against Perrone.
During the exchange, the accuser says he cannot recall if Fr. Perrone abused him. LePage insists he was abused, even introducing the word "sodomy" and asking the accuser to recall instances he was sodomized. The accuser explicitly states he cannot "vividly recall" such abuse, but LePage presses him, repeating the term, insisting the abuse occurred in her attempt to get the accuser to agree.
Bugarin also jumps in to insist the accuser was abused.
In their motion, Perrone's attorneys ask that the court require the archdiocese "to sign an affidavit attesting that the AOD has done a complete record search and produced every document, including electronically stored documents and communications, called for in the subpoena."
If the court grants the motion, the archdiocese will be required to explain why it failed to hand over the files. If the judge finds the answer unsatisfactory, she has the option of penalizing the archdiocese by imposing a daily fine or even jailing the archbishop for as long as he refuses to produce the required files.
In the face of mounting evidence exonerating Fr. Perrone and exposing the archdiocese's malfeasance, Catholics wonder whether Abp. Allen Vigneron, recently elected vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will step in and take action to correct what the public increasingly sees as unjust targeting of an innocent priest.
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