IOWA CITY, Iowa — A Catholic diocese on Wednesday defended its decision to continue employing a priest who told police he was trying to rape a woman when he was arrested naked in an Iowa mall in 2013.
The Diocese of Sioux City issued a statement for the first time acknowledging the 5-year-old incident involving Father Jeremy Wind, calling it a “mental health episode” from which he recovered with the help of medication and treatment. The diocese gave no details about what occurred and told parishioners the scrutiny was unfortunate and unnecessary because “there is nothing newsworthy to report.”
The statement came in response to inquiries from The Associated Press, which used the state’s open records law to shed light on a criminal case that was recently erased from public court files. It marks the latest diocese personnel matter that has come under scrutiny since its acknowledgment in October to having kept quiet a priest’s 1986 admission to sexually abusing roughly 50 boys.
Police reports show Wind, 39, was meeting with a female parishioner at a bakery in December 2013 when he began behaving erratically. He had just celebrated Mass at Christ the King church in Sioux Center, a town of 7,000 people in northwest Iowa.
Wind told the woman he was going to masturbate and took off his pants, prompting her to run away, she later told police. Wind chased her to her car, where she locked the door as he yelled about raping her and pounded on the vehicle’s window.
“I was so horrified, I thought what am I going to do?” the woman told police, in a statement obtained by AP. “I sat for awhile because I didn’t want to hurt him. When he started banging so hard that I thought he was going to break the window, I drove away.”
A Sioux Center police officer found Wind at the nearby Centre Mall, where he said he had no pants on because he “wanted to rape her” and instructed the officer to write that statement down, a report shows. He later said that he also wanted to rape the officer.
Wind ripped off the officer’s name tag and punched the officer, a report shows. He was handcuffed on the ground as a deputy pointed a Taser at him.
Wind was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct in a criminal complaint that didn’t mention the woman or his statements about rape. Under a September 2014 plea bargain, he received a deferred judgment, paid a $200 fine and was put on “informal probation” for one year. The agreement said Wind was “experiencing mania along with psychosis which prevented him from understanding his conduct at that time” of the incident.
All records related to the case disappeared from the Iowa courts online database this year, after Wind was transferred to the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City.
Sioux County Attorney Tom Kunstle said the AP would have to seek a court order to get him to answer any questions about the case. He summarily rejected an open records request for his correspondence related to the matter.
Wind’s defense attorney, Randy Waagmeester, and Wind didn’t immediately return phone messages Wednesday.
Wind received counseling and medical treatment for mental illness and “has since provided exemplary spiritual and priestly care to his parishioners,” the diocese said. Wind is on medication and follows “a lifestyle regimen that enables him to function without problems,” the statement said.