KARE’s Costantini rips Star Tribune for naming St. John’s monks in sex abuse cases

I dig Allen Costantini. When the KARE11 reporter wants to call out a rival media organization, he doesn’t resort to Twitter snarking. He’s more old-school — firing up his blog.

KARE's Allen Costantini
KARE’s Allen Costantini

Last year, the “KAREmudgeon” ripped KSTP-TV for re-hiring airline pitchman Joe Schmit and letting the sports director keep his Sun Country gig. Now, Costantini is in the Star Tribune’s grille, for naming 19 St. John’s Abbey monks implicated but never charged in a sex-abuse scandal:

Just for the record, we (KARE) do not name victims of sexual assault nor do we show their faces, unless they agree to allow that. We do not use the names of accused folks, even under arrest, if they have not been charged with a crime. After all, people get detained all the time, then get released. And, after all, it is one thing to have been “accused” of burglary. It is another thing entirely to be accused of a sex crime.

Even if you are purged of all guilt or association later, all anybody remembers is the initial charge with your name and/or picture after it. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. Sex crimes are simply in a different class than others.

The Strib’s naming policy is similar to KARE’s; unlike, say, the Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis paper often refuses to name suspects until they are charged. So how do they answer Costantini’s indictment?

Strib managing editor Rene Sanchez explains, “We made an exception to our usual policy in this instance because of the nature of the civil settlement and St. John’s unequivocal acknowledgement of it.”

This story differs from the usual sex-abuse case because a representative of the alleged perps — the abbey — revealed their identity as part of a civil settlement. The abbey, in a letter to its community, said the monks “had credible allegations of sexual abuse, exploitation or misconduct brought against them.”

As Strib reporter Rose French noted, “four are deceased, three are no longer at St. John’s and the others live at the abbey ‘with the constraints of a safety plan and supervision.'” (The settlement named two monks beyond the 17 the abbey identified.)

I suppose you could argue the abbey might’ve thrown the suspects under the bus to protect itself, though that’s a hard case to make for the ten still living on its grounds.

But Costantini’s jeremiad omits mention of the civil settlement involving an employer, which makes this something more than an unvetted accusation. Given the public letter, it’s an unusual enough case that I think the Strib made a justified exception here.

[Hat tip: T.E.]

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 03/30/2011 - 10:33 am.

    I hate to sound dumb, but I’ve read that Strib article five times now and it only mentions two of the monks, one who moved away and one who’s dead?! Where in the Strib is this list?

    The St. John’s letter lists the names, but that’s a .pdf document you have to download.

    Sorry, much as I’d like to commend the Strib for naming names, I think they went well out of their way to buffer access to that information.

  2. Submitted by David Brauer on 03/30/2011 - 10:39 am.

    Mark – the sidebar with names is here:

    http://strib.mn/g1ucRq

    It was also in a box in the original dead-tree version, on the jump.

  3. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 03/30/2011 - 10:58 am.

    Wow. And I was looking all over for that link and couldn’t find it. Not exactly like the Strib bought billboards all over town to make sure the word got out.

  4. Submitted by Ron Rosenbaum on 03/30/2011 - 11:34 am.

    In all due respect, Costantini is wrong. This isn’t a criminal investigation, it’s a settled civil matter. And good for Jeff Anderson for insisting that parts of the settlement become public. The Abbey didn’t pay significant dollars and name names because these were mere allegations of criminal conduct as Costantini infers. Rather, Anderson’s clients brought a civil case, which was settled. Game, set, match. And this was no frivolous lawsuit since the Abbey itself found “credible” evidence to support Anderson’s clients’ claims. Under Costantini’s theory, news outlets shouldn’t name names in civil cases alleging conduct that could possibly also, in different forums, be charged criminally. To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never heard of any news outlets held to such a standard. There may never be a criminal investigation let alone charges arising from these allegations. So be it. It’s beside the point.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/30/2011 - 12:18 pm.

    I’m sorry but I just have a hard time taking TV guys seriously these days. Near as I can tell most nights they’re down to about four minutes of actual news. KARE starts almost every broadcast with some kind of sports story even it there’s no sports going on.

    That doesn’t mean a guy like Constantini cant’s make legitimate observations but it would be easier to take seriously if you could tune into KARE and get some actual news.

    In case, it seems to me the release of the names was actually part of the settlement, there was no confidentiality clause. What’s the point of releasing the names if guys Constantini are going to censor them? As has already been pointed out, this was not a criminal case, and this is not private information. I’m no fan of the Strib but I certainly don’t advocate they truncate the news anymore than they already do, and I certainly don’t want to see them truncate down to TV news standards.

  6. Submitted by B Maginnis on 03/31/2011 - 10:11 am.

    Now, if Jacob Wetterlings disappearance is ever connected to one of these fine “monks”, or this “scholarly” institution that harbors child sexual abusers, what would the KAREmudgeon have to say then?

    17? SEVENTEEN? That’s not incidental, that’s cultural.

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