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Wis. Priest Charged With Sexual Assault

Sep 20, 2003 | AP

A Norbertine priest has been charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy in the hot tub and shower of the abbey where he lived in northeastern Wisconsin.

The Rev. James Stein, 43, was charged this week in Brown County Circuit Court with three counts of felony second-degree sexual assault of a child for incidents that allegedly happened in 1988.

The allegations were made by a former student who worked at the priory, part of the priests' living quarters connected to Notre Dame Academy.

The alleged victim, now 29, said the attacks took place the summer before his freshman year. He said Stein "would try to become a pal to the children he had contact with," according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.

Stein was convicted in 1991 of fourth-degree misdemeanor sexual assault in a case involving an adult who claimed abuse at the same swimming area, Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski said.

The complaint in the new case said Stein asked the alleged victim and another youth to go swimming at the Norbertine abbey in De Pere, then for ice cream.

Once at the abbey, Stein allegedly sat in a hot tub with the boy, put his hand on the boy's leg and then reached inside his swimming trunks and touched the boy's genitals. The boy then left the hot tub and went into the shower area, the complaint said.

Stein allegedly came up behind him there, put his hands on the boy's shoulders, and reached around and touched his genitals again, the complaint said. The alleged victim said he spun away from Stein and got dressed.

The boy said he agreed to go swimming with Stein a second time about two months later because two other boys were invited and he felt he would be safe. But he claims Stein again rubbed his leg and reached under his swimming trunks, after which he left the hot tub, the complaint says.

The Rev. David Komatz, prior of St. Norbert Abbey, said the abbey has had an abuse policy in place since 1989 requiring that priests who are accused of sexual abuse of a minor be removed from priestly ministry. But he said the policy did not apply to the 1991 case because those charges involved an adult.

Stein was assigned to Jackson, Miss., in 1992 for about a year and has since held a secular job in Chicago, Komatz said. Stein returned to live at the De Pere abbey a few weeks ago while the new charges are pending, Komatz said.

Stein was placed on administrative leave in April 2002, after officials learned of the investigation.

Zakowski said the alleged victim, who now lives outside the state, made his original complaint in March 2002.

"I believe it was appropriate and necessary that the charges be brought forward," Zakowski said.

The current statute of limitations allows charges to be filed until an alleged victim reaches age 31, but a proposal before state legislators would expand that time until the victim reaches age 45.

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