Jury selection continues in Hoefgen trial
By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
May 20, 2015
HASTINGS – A former altar boy at a Hastings church is expected to testify Thursday at the trial of a former St. John's Abbey monk and priest who is accused of sexually abusing the boy more than 25 years ago.
Fran Hoefgen, 64, is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Dakota County, where Hoefgen was assigned as a priest by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The abuse is alleged to have occurred between March 1989 and April 1992, after the boy moved to Hastings when his parents split up, Assistant Dakota County Attorney Paul Beaumaster told jurors Wednesday during his opening statement.
Beaumaster called Hoefgen a "good parish priest" who helped the boy deal with his family issues and other problems. But Beaumaster said Hoefgen took advantage of that and abused the boy beginning when he was in the fourth grade.
"The defendant violated that trust, and (the victim's) body, over a period of time," Beaumaster told jurors.
Hastings police were notified about the abuse in November 2013. State law allows prosecutors to pursue criminal charges for up to three years after a victim reports sexual abuse to law enforcement, even if the incident is decades old.
Hoefgen's attorney, Michael Colich, told jurors the former altar boy reported the abuse after meeting with Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul attorney known for suing religious orders. A member of Anderson's staff sat in on the police interview with the alleged victim and answered some of the questions police had, Colich said.
The defense will present evidence in the case, Colich said during a brief opening statement to jurors, but he didn't say what that evidence was. After hearing that evidence, he told jurors, the "only decision that you can make ... is to find the defendant not guilty."
Colich declined to discuss the case further when asked outside of court.
Beaumaster told jurors that his witnesses will include members of St. John's Abbey.
Hoefgen, who was wearing a corduroy jacket and khaki pants while sitting next to his attorneys Wednesday, was laicized in December 2011. That is a process in which a cleric is made a layperson. He had been placed on restriction by St. John's Abbey in 2002 after it received credible allegations against him of sexual misconduct.
Hoefgen was a St. John's Abbey monk assigned as priest to the St. Boniface parish in Cold Spring when, in 1983, he sexually abused a 17-year-old boy who was living with him temporarily at the parish residence.
Hoefgen was interviewed by police and admitted the abuse in that case. Within days Hoefgen was sent by the abbey to St. Luke Institute in Maryland, where he spent six months for evaluation and treatment.
He never was charged in Stearns County related to that abuse.
Hoefgen, after his stay at St. Luke Institute, was assigned by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to St. Boniface parish in Hastings. Hoefgen served there from 1985-1992, during which time he abused the victim that led to the criminal charges, according to the accusations contained in court documents.
Months after the abbey announced in 2002 that Hoefgen was facing restrictions, he remained the guest master of the St. John's Abbey guest house.