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Waukesha DA declines to file child sexual assault charges

The Waukesha County district attorney's office recently declined to file charges against a Catholic priest who has been accused of sexually abusing a minor in the mid-1990s. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has placed the priest on temporary leave while an investigation is being conducted.

At the time of a local news report, it was unclear whether the district attorney declined to prosecute because the statute of limitations ran out or because of a lack of evidence. According to an email from an archbishop, the priest denies the allegation of child sexual assault. The archbishop went on to say that there has been no substantiation of the claims against the priest.

The man's parishioners were also informed that he would be on temporary leave, and the archbishop's email was sent to other priests and staff.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese said that an independent investigation will ensue. Retired law enforcement officers are usually hired by the diocese to investigate claims of abuse. Those investigators then give their reports to the Diocesan Review Board, and that board recommends the appropriate course of action to the archbishop.

As Wisconsin residents can imagine, even unsubstantiated allegations of sexual abuse can cause serious harm to a person's reputation. For instance, another priest in Elm Grove was removed last year from active ministry after he was accused of abusing a child in the 1970s. In that case, the district attorney's office also declined to prosecute, as the statute of limitations had expired. However, that priest is still on leave, and the archdiocese is still investigating.

Source: jsonline.com, "Waukesha priest put on leave after sexual assault allegation," Meg Jones, March 18, 2012

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