CHEYENNE – The Cheyenne Police Department has recommended sexual abuse charges against a member of the Catholic clergy and another man who was seeking to join the clergy related to incidents from the 1970s and '80s.
In a news release, CPD said it has sent a recommendation for charges to the Laramie County District Attorney’s Office after a year-and-a-half-long investigation into allegations that juvenile males were the victims of sex abuse. One of the suspects was a member of the Catholic Clergy and another person was seeking membership in the Catholic Clergy at the time of the offenses.
“The investigation stems from a case initiated in 2002 that was reopened in 2018 when new information was produced and provided to the Cheyenne Police Department by an independent investigation conducted by the Wyoming Diocese of the Catholic Church,” the CPD release stated. “Detectives with the CPD utilized this new information to further investigate the 2002 case, and, in the process, found other victims and offenders. While the CPD has submitted affidavits, this case remains open until it has been adjudicated.”
Cheyenne Police in August 2018 issued a public request for anyone with information about sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the church in Cheyenne to come forward. In that request, the CPD pointed to an announcement by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne that it found new evidence that Bishop-Emeritus Joseph Hart had abused at least two young boys when he worked there from 1976-2001.
An attorney for Hart vehemently denied those accusations at the time of the diocese’s announcement, referring to a 2002 investigation by the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office that found “no evidence” of such abuse.
But Hart’s name was one of 11 that was included in a June report by the Diocese of Cheyenne that identified incidents of sexual abuse. The acts were perpetrated by members of the church between 1957 and 2003.
Through interviews with victims, the diocese found 29 minors and one vulnerable adult had been victims of clerical sexual abuse.
When the diocese released the report in June, current Bishop Steven Biegler said the names of the 11 members “represents a betrayal of trust, a violation of the innocent and a human tragedy.”
In his letter accompanying the list of names, Biegler called the history of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church an “appalling sin and a reprehensible crime,” and the lack of a response from officials in the church across the world an absolute breach of their role as the mediators between God and his worshipers.
“On behalf of the church, I apologize to each victim, not only for the misconduct of those who committed sexual abuse, but also for the failure of any Church leader who did not take appropriate action after having received a report of an allegation,” Biegler said. “Finally, I pledge to do all that we can to assist with your healing and to learn from errors in our past.”
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.