Taxpayers will be forced to pay for a Michigan detective's misconduct toward a Detroit priest, even as she admitted she was working on her "own time."
Father Eduard Perrone, a priest of the archdiocese of Detroit, recently won a defamation lawsuit against Det. Sgt. Nancy LePage of the Macomb County Sheriff's Department. On July 7, LePage agreed to pay him $125,000, after a three-person case evaluation panel unanimously found she had fabricated a rape charge against Perrone, leading to his suspension from ministry last year and international headlines falsely declaring him a pedophile.
Church Militant confirmed with LePage's attorney, John Schapka, that the county, not LePage, would be paying the $125,000 — in spite of the fact that LePage admitted she had been investigating Perrone on her own time and not on behalf of Macomb County.
The arrangement raises serious concerns, namely: Why are taxpayers being forced to foot the bill for a detective's malfeasance, when she admitted she was not working on behalf of Macomb County at the time?
A private citizen who commits misconduct and is sued is expected to pay damages out of his own pocket; why is LePage being exempted?
LePage's admission was made in a deposition on Nov. 5, 2019, attached as an exhibit in one of the court filings. The transcript shows Perrone's attorney asking LePage about the circumstances of her July 2019 interview of John Doe, the former altar boy who first accused Perrone. It was after this interview that LePage fabricated the sodomy charge that led to Perrone's suspension, and which formed the basis of his defamation lawsuit:
Attorney: And were you on your own time?
LePage: I was on my own time.
Attorney: So that was not Macomb County time?
LePage: That was not Macomb County time.
In this interview, John Doe explicitly denied being "sodomized" — but LePage included the charge anyway in her report, which was submitted to the Detroit archdiocesan review board.
Incidentally, LePage also threatened violence against Perrone in this interview, saying to John Doe, "But if I was you [name redacted], I'd be beating him into the ground. That's just being honest. It's just true honesty." She also said, "We'll turn the cameras off and shut the recorder off."
She made the remark as Msgr. Michael Bugarin, her pastor and the man who tapped her to help in the investigation, looked on and laughed.
Church Militant asked Schapka why the county was paying on LePage's behalf when she admitted she was working on her "own time." He denied she made the statement.
"There is no such admission," he told Church Militant. "I don't know what your source is."
When Church Militant cited the deposition, Schapka again denied the claim, saying, "No, that's absolutely wrong," going on to say Church Militant was "trying to start an argument" and that he did not agree with our "interpretation."
Schapka did not explain how the statements "I was on my own time" and "That was not Macomb County time" could have been interpreted to mean anything other than what they declare.
While it's true that LePage initially investigated the abuse allegations on behalf of Macomb County, LePage's July 2019 interview with John Doe took place long after Macomb County had closed its investigation into Perrone, with no recommendation for prosecution.
The sodomy charge that formed the basis of Perrone's suspension and his defamation lawsuit arose after the July 2019 interview, which LePage admits she conducted in a private capacity and not as an official of Macomb County.
In addition to paying the $125,000 in damages, taxpayers are also being burdened with paying for LePage's legal representation. Schapka, an attorney for Macomb County, confirmed with Church Militant that his legal services had been provided to her by the county.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Anthony Wickersham refuses to confirm whether he has disciplined LePage, in the face of repeated calls from the public to do so. After multiple queries from Church Militant asking whether he would suspend or fire the detective, who in addition to fabricating a rape charge against Perrone has also falsified witness testimony, Wickersham replied in an email Thursday, "The matter was looked into and we do not discuss personnel matters publicly."
"It's very difficult to understand two things," said Fr. Perrone's attorney, Chris Kolomjec, in comments to Church Militant, "One, how the county can agree to pay for her malfeasance and defamation against a priest and not remove her or fire her, or certainly discipline her in light of this extreme focus on police misconduct in the popular culture right now."
"And second, why hasn't the archdiocese immediately returned Father to active ministry after their investigator, who wrote the entire report that was presented to the review board as the basis for his removal," he continued, "has been found to be not only unreliable but that she had defamed Fr. Perrone?"
Church Militant previously heard from inside sources that Bodman Law, the high-priced firm representing the archdiocese of Detroit, was recommending that the archdiocese pay the $125,000 on LePage's behalf. Such an arrangement would raise serious ethical concerns, in particular whether it's appropriate for the archdiocese to draw on money donated by Detroit Catholics to pay off damages for defamation that the archdiocese itself participated in.
The archdiocese itself stated in a recent court filing that it did not hire LePage to investigate Perrone, and even appeared to admit she had fabricated the sodomy charge:
Defendant's false statements were made independent of the canonical process: "LePage was not appointed to be an investigator for the [Archdiocese] and the [Archdiocese's] counsel denied that she was acting at the [Archdiocese's] direction in compiling the report."
Kolomjec confirmed that the legal team has heard nothing from the archdiocese as to Perrone's status since he won his lawsuit Aug. 7.
"Nothing. Nothing at all," he told Church Militant. "Crickets."