Deacon Virgil Maxey Wheeler
Archdiocese of New Orleans
Assigned as follows:
- St. Francis Xavier Church (Metairie, LA)
Summary of Abuse Allegations against Deacon Virgil Maxey Wheeler:
Prior to his ordination as a deacon in 2018, Virgil Maxey (V.M.) Wheeler served on the boards governing the Archdiocese of New Orleans‘ fundraising arm and some of its senior housing facilities. He is believed to be on a leave of absence from the well-known Chaffe McCall law firm due to recent allegations of sexual misconduct. He has also worked as an adjunct professor at Tulane Law School.
According to media reports, in August 2020, the archdiocese removed Wheeler from ministry amid an allegation that he abused a boy under the age of 13 two decades earlier. His leave of absence from Chaffe McCall began around the same time. In November 2020, Wheeler was being investigated for allegations of the rape in his home that occurred between January 2000 and December 2001. In March 2021, he was arrested on one count of sexual battery and two counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile. In July 2021, a civil lawsuit was filed.
According to the lawsuit, “Wheeler began grooming a 10- or 11-year-old John Doe and his older brother by taking them to restaurants, movies, and buying them gifts. Wheeler likewise groomed John Doe’s parents by spending time at their home and earning their trust.”
The lawsuit also details how “numerous influential Catholics” pushed for Wheeler’s return to the ministry. One prominent donor to the Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans reportedly offered $400,000 to the alleged victim to settle his child sexual claims and stop cooperating with police in a criminal investigation.
The lawsuit said Vinny Mosca, a powerful attorney and former mayor of Harahan, “attempted to discourage the initiation of criminal charges because it would be a ‘media feeding frenzy’ and negative press for John Doe and his family.” According to media reports, he arranged a meeting with the victim’s parents “to see if there was a possibility for an amicable and expeditious resolution to this matter.” Later, Mosca was hired as an attorney for the Deacon himself.
Formal Charges Brought against Dn. Virgil Maxey Wheeler
On December 8, prosecutors in Jefferson Parish charged Dn. Wheeler with two counts of sexual battery and indecent behavior with a juvenile. According to the charging documents, the abuse occurred between March 2000 and March 2002. Sources say Dn. Wheeler and the victim’s family were friends, and that when Dn. Wheeler took the victim on a ski trip, he tried to coax the victim into his bed. Additional reports state that Dn. Wheeler allegedly took a shower with the victim and performed oral sex on him. While the charges pertain to one victim, sources say law enforcement has received allegations that Dn. Wheeler has preyed on at least one other minor.
UPDATE: On December 6, 2002, Virgil Maxey “VM” Wheeler III, now age 64, pleaded guilty to four charges of indecent behavior with a juvenile filed against him in state court in Jefferson parish. As part of the plea, he agreed to serve five years of probation, avoid contact with the victim for the rest of his life and register as a sex offender for 15 years. Prosecutors dropped charges of sexual battery of a child younger than 13 that they had initially leveled against Wheeler. The dismissed charges could have carried 10 years in prison under Louisiana law if he had been convicted. Wheeler is still facing a civil lawsuit demanding damages for this same victim.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The Archdiocese of New Orleans filed for federal bankruptcy protection in April 2020. Our lawyers are now offering free legal consultations to discuss your legal options as a survivor of sexual abuse by priests and other employees of the New Orleans Archdiocese. Call us at 888-283-9922 or send an e-mail to [email protected].