Judge sanctions advocacy group in Missouri clergy abuse suit

Scales of Justice

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge has admonished an advocacy group for clergy abuse victims for defying her orders to release personal information about people who accused a priest of sexual misconduct, finding that the group plotted against the priest now suing for defamation.

U.S. District Judge Carol Jackson, in a ruling Monday in St. Louis, cited the “deliberate and willful refusal” by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests to turn over to the Rev. Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang the information the group deems confidential.

SNAP said Tuesday it is weighing its legal options involving Jackson’s latest order, insisting that despite the judge’s rulings otherwise the information is legally privileged – and that sharing it could have a chilling effect on clergy abuse victims.

“Giving an alleged child molester private information about alleged victims will scare others from coming forward to police, prosecutors, therapists and support groups,” David Clohessy, SNAP’s St. Louis-based executive director, said in an emailed statement. “We face what we believe is a Catch-22 – a conflict between the court’s order and the requirements of Missouri law ensuring confidentiality.”

Messages left Tuesday by The Associated Press with Jiang’s attorneys were not immediately returned.

Jiang, 33, was accused of sexually abusing a boy in a Catholic school bathroom in 2011 and 2012. But St. Louis prosecutors, who charged him in 2014 with two counts of statutory sodomy, dropped the charges without explanation in June of last year, though the city’s top prosecutor said then that her office “remains hopeful that charges will be refiled in the future.”

Nine days later, Jiang sued the boy’s parents, police, the city of St. Louis, Clohessy and fellow SNAP leader Barbara Dorris. As part of the lawsuit, which claims Jiang was unfairly targeted and his reputation damaged, his attorneys have pressed for evidence that Jiang was the focus of a conspiracy and “smear campaign.”

Jiang previously was accused in 2012 of inappropriate contact with a teenage girl and giving the family a $20,000 check for their silence. That criminal case was dismissed in 2013 and the family sued Jiang, though the status of that lawsuit wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday.

Jackson has ruled that federal law does not guarantee privacy in the production of pretrial evidence and ordered SNAP to produce emails and text messages sent to the defendants and St. Louis prosecutors. They also were ordered to turn over all records of donations that attorneys for SNAP have made to the organization.

Jackson wrote Monday she “will direct that it has been established that the SNAP defendants conspired with one another and others to obtain plaintiff’s conviction on sexual abuse charges,” and that such a plot discriminated “against (Jiang) based on his religion, religious vocation, race, and national origin.”

Jackson, stopping short of finding SNAP in contempt, ordered SNAP to pay Jiang’s legal fees related to the group’s stalling in turning over the court-ordered documents.