|Charges Dropped against Priest Accused of Sex Assault
By Anne Jungen
December 21, 2011
Prosecutors Wednesday dropped a sexual assault charge filed against a Wisconsin priest accused of groping a 15-year-old girl when he was in La Crosse earlier this year.
The Rev. David Szatkowski, 38, of Franklin, Wis., had maintained his innocence since the charge was filed in August, his attorney Keith Belzer said.
"Unfortunately, members of the community often rush to judgment in cases such as these. Sometimes that judgment is made in error," Belzer said. "In this case, an exhaustive investigation was conducted. At the conclusion of that investigation the charges were finally and appropriately dismissed."
Prosecutors in September reduced a charge of sexual assault of a child under 16 years of age filed against Szatkowski to fourth-degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct.
The decision to dismiss the charges came after additional investigation, La Crosse County Assistant District Attorney Emily Hynek said.
"Upon further investigation of several facets of the case and consultation with the victim about her wishes regarding the outcome, the state determined that it would not further pursue the charges," she said.
The teen told police Szatkowski grabbed her breast Aug. 8 outside the downtown La Crosse Radisson, according to the complaint.
Investigators tracked Szatkowski, of Franklin, Wis., to conference for civil attorneys and specialist in canon law at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He denied assaulting the teen, the complaint states.
Szatkowski resigned from his position as an assistant professor of canon law and director of the English as a second language program at Franklin's Sacred Heart School of Theology and provincial secretary, as required by his religious order for anyone facing criminal charges. He was not assigned to a parish.
The order will conduct an independent investigation before deciding whether to return him to public ministry, Sacred Heart spokeswoman Mary Gorski said.
"This is something we do above and beyond," she said.
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