April 26, 2023
Archdiocese of Denver
1300 S. Steele St.
Denver, CO 80210
For Immediate Release
NO CHARGES FILED AGAINST PRIEST ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE
Aspen Police close the case; Archdiocese set to launch internal investigation
DENVER – After an exhaustive year and a half long investigation completed by the Aspen Police Department, the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office has determined the allegations against Father Michael O’Brien are baseless and the District Attorney has closed the case. This work and the outcome of the investigation informs the public that the allegations that Fr. O’Brien sexually abused a minor more than 15 years ago during his time at St. Mary Catholic Church in Aspen are false accusations against a good man.
During the 18-month investigation, multiple investigators put in over 500 hours of work and collaborated with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. The detectives interviewed more than 80 witnesses. The police formally interviewed the individual making the allegations for many hours. From the beginning of the investigation Fr. O’Brien cooperated with the Police and District Attorney’s offices, provided all the materials they requested, sat for a lengthy interview, and passed a polygraph test that he volunteered to take.
Fr. O’Brien was a priest in good standing when these allegations were first made in 2021, and in his more than 22 years of priestly service he has never had any other allegation made against him. Fr. O’Brien has maintained his innocence from day one. Fr. O’Brien has been out of ministry awaiting the outcome of this investigation and he will now await the determination of the Archdiocese’s internal process before he can return to ministry. Understandably this has been a very difficult time for him.
False and fraudulent claims do enormous harm to the accused, the system, and to legitimate reporters of harm. The Archdiocese of Denver remains committed to the protection of all who are vulnerable, and we are also committed to defending our priests and anyone affiliated with the Church when they are wrongly accused.
The individual who made these allegations also filed a civil lawsuit seeking money, and the Archdiocese was quickly dismissed from that case. Now that the police have finished their work the Archdiocese will complete our investigation and submit the facts, including all the available materials from the Aspen Police’s investigation to the Review Board of professionals who will advise the Archbishop on the issue of Fr. O’Brien returning to ministry.