Ex-Priest Convicted of Sex Assault
Former Clergyman Indecently Touched Boy in 1988
By Steve Schultze and Marie Rohde
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Green Bay WI]
July 27, 2005
A Brown County jury convicted a 62-year-old former priest in Green Bay of two felony child sex assault charges Wednesday, in an unusual case involving attacks during counseling sessions at a Catholic parish school in 1988.
Donald J. Buzanowski faces up to 40 years in prison on the convictions for indecently touching a 10-year-old boy at Green Bay's Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic school. Buzanowski at the time was pastor of an associated parish.
The victim, David Schauer, now 27, went to the sessions because of trouble he'd had with a school bully.
"It's nice to be believed," a relieved Schauer said after the verdict Wednesday. "For so long, I felt that I was the only one that something like this ever happened to."
Buzanowski left Green Bay in 1989 for Milwaukee and worked as a drug counselor for Children's Court during most of the 1990s. He served 21 months in federal prison on a 2000 child pornography conviction and was back in Milwaukee as a volunteer for an east side Protestant church after his release in 2002.
Buzanowski's sentencing is Sept. 16.
Brown County prosecutors considered filing charges in 1990, after Schauer's family found out about the abuse and a counselor reported it to authorities. But no charges were filed because then-Brown County District Attorney William Griesbach has said he felt a conviction would be tough in a case that boiled down to a boy's word against a priest's.
The case was revived after a Journal Sentinel article in 2003 that described a letter Buzanowski had written to a Milwaukee pastor admitting to having molested 14 boys.
Repeated changes in state law extending the time that child abuse can be prosecuted and a 2003 state Supreme Court decision made it possible to bring charges in some old cases, said Vincent Biskupic, who was appointed special prosecutor in the Buzanowski case.
The admission letter was not allowed into evidence at Buzanowski's trial, but prosecutors tracked down a 39-year-old man who testified that Buzanowski had assaulted him at least 20 times during visits to a Door County cottage beginning in 1978.
Biskupic credited compelling testimony from the second victim and the police work that found the man for helping to convict Buzanowski. Jurors returned their verdicts in an hour Wednesday, after two days of testimony.
Buzanowski did not testify at the trial. Owen Monfils, his lawyer, said Buzanowski didn't recall any sessions with Schauer. However, Monfils said if there were such sessions, there hadn't been any improper touching by Buzanowski.
"It was (nearly) 18 years ago, and he has no recollection of having any contact with the Schauer boy at all," Monfils said.
Biskupic said he hoped the quick verdict "encourages police agencies to aggressively seek out some of the older cases in order to hold these perpetrators responsible for their actions."
Schauer also has a 2003 civil case that is pending accusing the Green Bay Diocese of negligence, saying it hid past allegations of sex abuse of children against Buzanowski. Church officials have denied the claim. A Brown County judge dismissed the suit, but the state Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal.
Green Bay Bishop David Zubik issued a statement Wednesday on the Buzanowski convictions saying: "No child should ever be harmed. As Donald Buzanowski has been found guilty, please know that I am praying for all involved."
He said the diocese cooperated with civil authorities on all clergy abuse allegations.
Church leaders suspended Buzanowski from the priesthood in 1992 - three years after he left the active ministry. He was formally defrocked by the church in March.