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Colorado’s former attorney general, who initiated review of priest sex abuse, would have preferred grand jury investigation

Jesse Paul, Colorado Sun
Christ the King Chapel, on the campus of the Archdiocese of Denver, is the chapel used by seminary students seeking the priesthood. (Photo provided by the Archdiocese of Denver)

Former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman says she would have preferred a criminal investigation of child sex abuse in the state’s three Catholic dioceses and that she talked to former Gov. John Hickenlooper about the prospect of launching one.

But as Coffman worked to find a way last year to account for priests’ behavior, she realized the most realistic route was an independent review with the cooperation of the church. She couldn’t initiate a criminal investigation herself — only the governor could have done that through executive action.

“My preference would have been to have investigative authority through an executive order,” she told The Colorado Sun. “But I recognized the realities created by time and pending elections and changes in administration and the need to move forward with an investigation.”

Coffman, a Republican who left office in January after opting not to seek a second term, initiated the process that led to the recently completed independent investigation into child sex abuse in the state’s three Catholic dioceses. The review found that at least 166 children were sexually abused by at least 40 priests in Colorado since 1950 and that the church had a culture of “reluctance to admit wrongdoing” and “self-protection.”

Coffman is now urging the legislature to give the Colorado’s attorney general expanded power to launch criminal investigations. Currently, the attorney general needs the OK of the governor to open a grand jury probe in most situations. 

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.


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