Vindicated by archbishop, former Aspen priest set to pastor at churches in the Colorado plains

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Denver’s archdiocese announced that Archbishop Samuel Aquila is restoring a former Aspen priest accused of 300 instances of sexual abuse back to active duty — effective immediately — after an internal investigation, which follows the close of a long police investigation.

In April, Aspen Police announced that their investigation, which involved months of interviews with 86 witnesses, found no evidence to support criminal charges.

The accuser, Keegan Callahan, is serving a 14-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2019 of raping a 16-year-old high school girl off McLain Flats Road.

The archbishop said his decision was made after a recommendation from the Archdiocesan Review Board.

The archdiocese statement said police “exonerated” Father O’Brien. Detective Jeremy Johnson told The Aspen Times, “No one had any corroborating evidence.”

Johnson said the FBI reviewed the investigation’s many steps and agents were involved who had experience investigating sexual abuse by priests. O’Brien denied all Callahan’s allegations and volunteered to take a polygraph, which he passed, Johnson said. The 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office reviewed the police report and concluded there was no evidence for criminal charges.

O’Brien still faces a civil lawsuit from Callahan, whose attorney did not return calls requesting comment.

Callahan, now 25, claimed O’Brien abused him between 2004 and 2008.

“Although Father O’Brien is facing a lawsuit in civil court based on the same allegations, the review board and our attorneys advise us that the lawsuit is frivolous and the claims are spurious,” the archdiocese statement declared. “”I will not let irresponsible and unfounded lawsuits keep a good priest from the ministry.”

O’Brien will return to St. Anthony of Padua in Julesburg and St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Crook as the pastor on July 1, according to the statement.

Johnson told The Aspen Times that O’Brien had told police he was praying for Callahan.


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