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  Plea Deal Convicts Priest of Abuse
Stein Accused of Molesting Boy in 1988

By Andy Nelesen anelesen@greenbaypressgazette.com
Green Bay Press-Gazette
August 31, 2004

A Norbertine priest was convicted Monday of molesting a teenage boy after agreeing to a plea bargain in exchange for prosecutors dismissing two of three pending felony charges.

James Stein, 44, who lives at the St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, pleaded no contest to second-degree sexual assault of a child stemming from a 1988 incident in the abbey's pool and hot tub area. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors dismissed two other identical charges, but both will be considered by Brown County Circuit Court Judge Sue Bischel at sentencing Dec. 13.

According to the criminal complaint, Stein took a then-14-year-old boy, whom he befriended at Green Bay Premontre High School friary, to the St. Norbert Abbey to swim. While in the pool area, Stein fondled the boy while in the hot tub and again in the shower.

The victim, now 30, came forward in March 2002 and the criminal complaint was filed in September 2003. The case was delayed, in part, because Stein was living and working outside Wisconsin for much of the time since the attack.

Prosecutors, the victim's family, Stein and his attorney, Steven Glynn, did not comment after Monday's brief hearing. The plea cancels a jury trial that was set to begin today.

As part of the plea bargain, prosecutors promised to limit their sentencing recommendation to five years in prison. Glynn is free to argue for whatever sentence he deems appropriate. Stein faces up to 10 years in prison and Bischel is not bound by any agreement reached between Stein and prosecutors.

Because the crime occurred in 1988, the sentence will be under guidelines used before truth-in-sentencing legislation. That means that Bischel will set the sentence, but a parole formula will dictate when Stein gets out of prison and how much time he spends on parole.

In April, Bischel ruled that charges against Stein could stand, despite the case extending beyond the normal six-year statute of limitations for a sexual assault case. Bischel ruled that because Stein lived outside of Wisconsin for much of the time after the incident, the statutory language that suspended the time limits applied and the case could go forward.

Bischel on Monday delayed the sentencing hearing so the victim, who lives and works in Montana, could attend. Stein remains free on a signature bond.

 
 

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