St. Norbert Priest Will Go to Trial after Preliminary Hearing

By Monique Balas
News-Chronicle [Wisconsin]
Downloaded October 28, 2003

The Rev. James Stein will stand trial for felony second degree sexual abuse of a child after a 29-year-old victim testified against the Norbertine priest at a preliminary hearing before a Brown County court commissioner Monday.

Wearing a gray sweater over a black turtleneck shirt, Stein, 43, sat quietly and occasionally shut his eyes as the victim described the circumstances of the alleged abuse.

The victim said the attacks occurred in the hot tub at the St. Norbert Abbey in August or September of 1988, when he was 14 years old.

He testified that Stein told him and the boy to keep quiet about the whole incident because Stein wasn't supposed to have visitors at the abbey and the boys weren't supposed to be in the swimming area.

"We weren't supposed to tell anybody about the swimming incident because we weren't supposed to be swimming," the victim said.

He said he had been working as a cook's assistant in the Priory, a residency for the priests who taught at Premontre High School (now Notre Dame Academy) and had a "friendly, buddy-type" relationship with Stein, who served as head of campus ministry at the school.

The victim alleged the night of the first assault, he and another boy were invited to go swimming at the abbey.

Stein allegedly picked up the boys and drove them to the abbey around 8:30 or 9 p.m., where they ate ice cream in the kitchen before going to the pool area.

The victim said he changed into his swimming suit and then went to the hot tub, where Stein allegedly reached under his swimsuit and fondled him.

The victim said he then went to the shower area, where he said Stein grabbed him around the shoulders and molested him a second time.

The victim could not answer defense attorney Stephen Glynn's questions as to the exact location of the other boy during the incident because of the amount of time that had passed.

He said he went back into the locker room and waited for Stein and the other boy to get ready to leave so Stein could drive him home.

The victim testified that several months later, he went with Stein and two other boys back to the abbey swimming pool.

He said there was one boy who he knew, and another person Stein invited whose identity the victim could not recall.

The victim said Stein molested him in the hot tub the same way he did a few months earlier.

He added he did not tell anyone in the abbey about what had happened because there were no people around and he presumed everyone was asleep.

Glynn said following the hearing he would probably challenge the statute of limitations at an arraignment next month.

But because the victim moved out of the area in 1992 and only recently moved back, the statute of limitations could likely be excluded, said Dana Johnson, assistant Brown County district attorney.

"Otherwise, it's only six years until it's charged," he said.

He said in response to a reporter's question that he didn't feel it was unusual the victim couldn't remember specifics about the incident.

"You're not going to remember everything that happened," he said.

Stein will enter a plea at an arraignment hearing on Nov. 14.


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