Sex Offender Sentenced for Not Notifying State

By Doug Erickson
Wisconsin State Journal [Wisconsin]
February 3, 2007

A former Episcopalian pastor and convicted sex offender who moved from Milwaukee to Fort Atkinson and opened a "monastic community" without notifying the state's sex offender registry was sentenced to 10 days in jail Friday.

The punishment was far less than the nine months in jail sought by Jefferson County District Attorney David Wambach.

William J. Smith, 55, was convicted in December of one felony count of violating the state's sex offender registry for failing to provide his new address. A second felony count of using an alias — Father Abbot Joseph — was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

According to court documents, Smith lived in Fort Atkinson for about three months without the knowledge of the state Department of Corrections. An anonymous tipster turned him in.

Smith was convicted in 1989 of two counts of second-degree sexual assault in Door County for having sex with a 15-year-old boy. Smith was pastor of Christ the King Episcopal Church in Sturgeon Bay at the time. The victim was an altar boy.

For the rest of his life, Smith must notify the state of his whereabouts so he can be listed on the state's sex offender registry, Offenders are required to provide updated information to the state within 10 days of moving.

Registry officials said the case was significant because Smith was attempting to re-establish himself in the same position of community authority that led to his 1989 conviction. In court Friday, Wambach said it is critical that offenders comply with the sex registry rules so that neighbors can make informed decisions about their safety.

Smith's attorney, Michael Witt, noted that his client served his prison term from 1989 and has not been accused of any other inappropriate conduct with youth. He said Smith has never been diagnosed as a pedophile. Smith's failure to notify the registry was a lapse, Witt said.

Smith told the court he'd learned his lesson. "The consequences of my failure have been catastrophic," he said.

Shortly after the charges became public last spring, Smith was fired from his job as an employment specialist with the state Department of Workforce Development. State officials accused him of using his position to develop personal relationships with several troubled young men.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge John Ullsvik appeared skeptical of some of Smith's claims, questioning how Smith's life could be described as monastic when he was working full time in the community and recruiting people to his religious order through a Web site.

Ullsvik said it was "worrisome" that Smith posted a picture on his Web site in which he is dressed in a religious robe and shown with children.

The sex offender registry is intended to act as "a branding" because of the significant rate of recidivism among convicted sex offenders, Ullsvik said.

"It is, in a way, a continuing sentence that never ends, for good reason."

E-mail: or 608-252-6149


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.