(KTVI)-- A Catholic priest accused in 2012 of molesting an underage girl from Lincoln County no longer faces criminal charges. Pike County Circuit Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer threw out the child endangerment charge against Father Xiu Hiu 'Joseph' Jiang on Monday. That ruling became public Friday.
A statement issued by the court indicates new information shows the defendant (Jiang) was never alone with the alleged victim and therefore a charge of 'child endangerment' was improper. An associated tampering with a witness charge had to be automatically dismissed once the first charge was dropped.
Lincoln County Prosecutor Leah Askey told FOX2 News the statute of limitations has expired on any misdemeanor charges that might have been considered. However, she said if new evidence of a felony is obtained, new charges could be filed.
Lucy Hannegan, organizer of the Friends of Father Jiang website, said she and other supporters 'never had any doubts in his innocence so it is no surprise to us.'
David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the teenager and her family are 'very, very upset.' 'The victim and the family reported promptly and there is a lot of evidence, yet still the judge tossed out the charges so it is very disconcerting,' he added.
He described the evidence as a twenty thousand dollar check from the 'perpetrator to the family' as well as emails to and from the victim and the perpetrator. A civil lawsuit filed by the family against the Archdiocese and Archbishop Robert Carlson mentions a family acquaintance who complained to church officials about 'inappropriate behavior' by the priest.
Father Jiang had been assigned to the New Cathedral on Lindell in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. The alleged victim and her family had been among the parishioners. He remains suspended. The St. Louis Archdiocese issued a statement Friday saying 'The Archdiocesan Review Board, a board comprised of mostly lay and professional men and women, will review the situation at the appropriate time and advise Archbishop Robert J. Carlson on matters related to Fr. Jiang`s current suspended status.'
The same judge who dismissed the criminal charge allowed the alleged victim`s family to amend their civil lawsuit this week. It remains pending in the Pike County Circuit Court. The original criminal case had been transferred from Lincoln County to Pike.
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