DETROIT (AP) — A western Michigan pastor who was told about suspected child abuse can’t be prosecuted for failing to report it, the state appeals court said Friday, citing a law that gives clergy protection in cases dealing with confidential information.
The court, in a 3-0 decision, agreed with similar decisions by judges in Ionia County, east of Grand Rapids.
In 2009, a woman told John Prominski, pastor of Resurrection Life Church in Ionia, that her husband likely was abusing her daughters. She wanted advice from him but authorities weren’t alerted.
After another incident in 2011, Prominski told the woman that she must contact police or he would, according to a summary of the case. That’s when police learned he had failed to report suspected abuse two years earlier.
The Ionia County prosecutor charged Prominski with failing to make a report, but two courts dismissed the misdemeanor charge.
“Although the mother did not make a confession, she had a similar expectation the communication would not be shared,” said appeals court judges Stephen Borrello, David Sawyer and Deborah Servitto.
Prominski “was not required to make a report. ... The motion to dismiss was properly granted,” they said.
Prominski told The Associated Press on Friday that the experience has made him “much wiser.”
“It’s been a very trying, very difficult time on me and my family,” he said. “I’ve been thrown in jail over this, had my mug shots and fingerprints taken.
“I feel like at the time I made the best possible call I could have. When you’ve just got limited information and limited facts you make the best possible call you can.”
Defense attorney Bruce Block said the pastor regrets not contacting police but believed the allegations in 2009 were “very sketchy.” He said Prominski probably wasn’t even aware that clergy are protected in certain circumstances under Michigan law.
“I can guarantee you Rev. Prominski doesn’t want to see children abused,” Block said Friday. “He met with the guy about 10 times, and the guy flat-out denied anything had happened.”
Block said Prominski’s view was different in 2011 when the allegations were much more specific. Emails seeking comment were left for the prosecutor.
“This has been a cross for the pastor, without a question,” Block said. “I’ve seen him in some very down times, second-guessing, ‘Should I have done something different?’”