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GREEN BAY ROMAN CATHOLIC DIOCESE: Accused Priest Arrested As Fugitive In California

Sep 17, 2002 | AP

A fugitive priest accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old altar boy in the 1970s during a face-to-face confession in a Wisconsin church was arrested Monday in Southern California, officials said.

John Patrick Feeney, 75, was arrested about 6:40 a.m. without incident at his Los Angeles apartment, said Sgt. Kathy Voyer of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

A criminal complaint in Wisconsin's Outagamie County charges Feeney with three felony counts for the alleged sexual assault in 1978 of the 12-year-old boy in the church confessional and a later attempted sexual assault of the same boy and his 14-year-old brother at their home.

Feeney worked in 18 parishes over 30 years in the Green Bay diocese before he left Wisconsin in 1983 amid numerous allegations of sexual misconduct with adolescent boys, court documents showed.

Outagamie County District Attorney Vince Biskupic said the diocese cooperated with his investigation.

The six-year statute of limitations would have expired if Feeney still lived in Wisconsin, but the deadline is suspended if a suspect leaves the state, Biskupic said.

According to the complaint, Feeney was pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Freedom, Wis., in the spring of 1978 when the younger boy came to him for a face-to-face confession. He asked the boy whether a girl had ever touched him "here" and grabbed the boy's crotch.

The priest, who was a family friend, allegedly visited the 12-year-old boy at his home a few months later and tried to touch him in the groin area while he was lying in bed. Feeney also allegedly went into the bedroom of the boy's 14-year-old sibling the same night and attempted to touch the boy below his pajama bottoms.

Court documents also showed Feeney had received counseling and treatment over three decades and had been diagnosed as being sexually attracted to adolescents.

Feeney is being held without bail and an extradition hearing was scheduled for Tuesday morning in Los Angeles.

Court documents said Feeney tried to become a practicing priest in the San Diego area after moving to California in 1983, but Bishop Leo T. Maher rejected his attempt to minister in the area.

The complaint listing the charges against Feeney mentioned several other alleged victims who all are men now in their late 30s to early 50s, Biskupic said.

"Despite moving on with their lives, they are still very interested in Feeney being held accountable for his criminal acts despite the fact that it took place decades ago," he said.

The statute of limitations has expired for the other victims listed in the complaint, Biskupic said.

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