MI State Police Find No Evidence of Abuse by Detroit Priest

News: US News
by Christine Niles  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  November 18, 2019   

Accuser testimony undermines archdiocese of Detroit's findings

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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Newly obtained documents show Michigan State Police chose not to pursue allegations against Detroit priest Fr. Eduard Perrone after the accuser denied any touching occurred.

The investigative report obtained by Church Militant was compiled by Det. Sgt. Richard Lutz on behalf of the Michigan State Police and is dated June 24, 2019, and includes an interview with the accuser, revealing inconsistencies and contradictions in his testimony as compared to his statements made elsewhere. Michigan State Police ultimately chose not to pursue the allegations against Perrone.


A page from Det. Sgt. Richard Lutz' report on MI State Police's investigation into

allegations regarding Fr. Eduard Perrone. MI State Police chose not to pursue the

case based on accuser's statements that he could not recall any incidents of abuse.

Critics have condemned the archdiocese of Detroit for finding as "credible" the accuser's single allegation of abuse arising from a 40-year-old "repressed memory." The allegation resulted in Perrone's suspension from ministry in July, after a spotless record of more than four decades as a priest. Perrone is known for his orthodoxy and for fostering the traditional liturgy, and was a co-founder with Fr. John Hardon of the nationally recognized Call to Holiness conference, which hosted Cdl. Raymond Burke in October.

In Lutz's interview with Perrone's accuser, "[The accuser] stated he feels like something could have happened then although he is not sure if it did and is currently working with his therapist to uncover those memories," referring to time spent in his youth at a lakehouse owned by Perrone's mother, and where parish families had annual swimming outings.

Lutz's investigation will likely confirm critics' claims that Perrone's suspension is a "political hit job," with the accuser himself admitting he remains unsure if the abuse actually occurred, and that he was "working with his therapist to uncover those memories."

During the interview, the accuser refers to a camping trip with Perrone and states that "he cannot recall any specific incident or act that occurred on the camping trip and that he has some sort of mental block regarding the trip."

The accuser admits that all he has is "a hunch that he was taken advantage of" by the priest, but can recall no actual touching or penetration.

"[T]here was no penetration," according to the accuser, and the priest did not touch "his penis."

"During my interview with [accuser], he did not disclose or recall and [sic] incidents where he was penetrated or touched by Fr. Perrone," Lutz writes in his summary. "[Accuser] also could not recall any specific incidents where he was forced to touch or penetrate Fr. Perrone."

MI State Police Reject LePage's Findings

This contradicts testimony taken down by Det. Sgt. Nancy LePage of the Macomb County Police Department, who conducted her own interview of the accuser and claims he told her he was "sodomized," but failed to follow up with questions about any specific incidents — findings Lutz rejected.

"In D/Sgt LePage's report she states that [accuser] was sodomozed by Fr. Perrone on a camping trip but does not list any specific incident to support that claim," Lutz's report reads. "[LePage's] report states that [accuser] claims this was witnessed by two other altar boys. These statements were not supported in my interview of [accuser]."

"[LePage's] report continues stating that [accuser] began to be abused in the 8th grade but does not state specifically what kind of abuse was administered," the report continues.

LePage has come under fire after a former altar boy accused her of deceptively inserting words in his testimony that appear to incriminate Perrone.

LePage has come under fire after a former altar boy accused her of deceptively inserting words in his testimony that appear to incriminate Perrone.

James Fortenberry, who spent time with the accuser as a youth at Perrone's mother's lakehouse, testified in an affidavit that he never witnessed or experienced any inappropriate behavior by Perrone. Interviewed over the phone by LePage, he told her that while he and others spent nights in the guestroom of St. Peter's parish rectory, he never saw or experienced any abuse.

But in her notes, LePage falsely wrote that Fortenberry spent nights in "Fr. Perrone's bedroom," a point Fortenberry strenuously denies.

"Ms. LePage asked me questions about Fr. Perrone and it quickly became clear that she was trying to manipulate me into saying that Fr. Perrone abused me, when this was not the case," Fortenberry wrote in his affidavit.

"Ms. LePage's notes of our interview show that she was not listening to what I was saying and that she conducted the interview based on her belief that Fr. Perrone abused me even though I told her this was not true," he continued.

In sworn testimony given on Oct. 29, Fortenberry said of LePage, "I felt like she was trying to taint — take what I said and almost groom it to what she wanted me to say."

Perrone's legal team issued a statement on Oct. 31 highlighting the inconsistencies in LePage's interview.

"[T]he Michigan State Police investigator found that more salacious allegations reported by Macomb County Sheriff Detective Sergeant Nancy LePage were 'not supported' by the investigator's interview with the accuser," the statement reads. "The investigator also noted that the accuser 'just has a hunch' that Fr. Perrone could have taken advantage of him."

"To date, the Archdiocese of Detroit has shown little interest in uncovering the truth, and instead seems focused on proving guilt at all costs," the attorneys' statement continues. "Fr. Perrone remains hopeful that truth and justice will prevail, and is grateful for all of the prayers and support from countless supporters."

70+ Altar Boys Testify on Behalf of Fr. Perrone

More than 70 former altar boys have signed affidavits swearing that they never witnessed abuse or any inappropriate behavior from Fr. Perrone.

"Collectively, we have spent tens of thousands of hours with Fr. Perrone in circumstances like these, among others," the affidavit states. "Many of us were vulnerable at some point during this period, due to young age or other factors."

"However, none of us have ever experienced, or observed, any immoral or inappropriate behavior by Fr. Perrone in connection with his interactions with altar boys or any other parishioners," it continues.

The affidavit notes that they have never witnessed from the priest "Inappropriate physical contact," "Suggestive conversations," Emotional abuse or coercion" or "Encouragement or facilitation of underage drinking."

It remains to be seen whether the archdiocese of Detroit will reverse its finding that allegations against Perrone are 'credible.'

Lutz also reveals in his investigative report that four other altar boys had been interviewed by LePage, each revealing no knowledge of any abuse committed by the priest:

[Name redacted] did not disclose any knowledge of Fr. Perrone abusing children or specifically [accuser].

[Name redacted] did not disclose any knowledge of Fr. Perrone abusing children or specifically [accuser]. But he did described [accuser] as the "Vulnerable Type."

[Name redacted] did not disclose any knowledge of Fr. Perrone abusing children or specifically [accuser].

[Name redacted] did not disclose any knowledge of Fr. Perrone abusing children or specifically [accuser]. [Name redacted] was asked if Fr. Perrone showed any of the altar boys favoritism or appeared vulnerable and he replied [redacted] and stated that [redacted] wanted to be a priest.

As a result of the accuser's own statements denying any touching took place, Michigan State Police closed its investigation into Perrone, although its overall investigation into abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church remains open.

The investigative file raises more questions with regard to the archdiocese of Detroit's handling of the case, already criticized for suspending Perrone without first allowing him an opportunity to defend himself before the review board, and then placing a gag order on him so as to prevent him from issuing a public statement defending his innocence in the face of international media publicity.

With new information coming to light that the accuser himself has denied recalling any specific incidents of abuse, it remains to be seen whether the archdiocese of Detroit will reverse its earlier finding that his allegations against Perrone are still "credible."

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