Pewaukee priest accused of groping a teenager in a confessional released on $10,000 bond
By Steven Martinez
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
October 16, 2018
A Pewaukee priest accused of groping a teenage congregant in a confessional has been released on bond and is scheduled to reappear in court in November for a preliminary hearing.
The Rev. Chuck Hanel, 61, appeared Oct. 15 in Waukesha County Circuit Court and signed a $10,000 signature bond, court records show. He was released on condition that he have no contact with the accuser or her family, no unsupervised contact with anyone younger than 18 "in the context of his employment" and was ordered to surrender his passport.
Hanel stands accused of second-degree sexual assault of a child. A 14-year-old girl reproted to police in April that Hanel touched her breast and leg in a confessional at Queen of Apostles Church in December 2017, when she was 13.
She said in a criminal complaint that, when she entered the confessional, Hanel closed the door behind her — something she says he did not do with anyone else, including her father, who entered the confessional before her.
According to the complaint, the girl volunteered at the church, N35 W23360 Capitol Drive, as a lector and altar server. She reported the incident to police as Hanel was preparing to return to the parish from a months-long sabbatical, the complaint said, and told her father she thought Hanel was "creepy" and "weird."
Hanel's attorney, Gerome Buting, has said Hanel has never — and would never — do what he is accused of.
"This is a single accusation of an adolescent girl against a priest who has faithfully served the people of this archdiocese for 35 years without a hint of any inappropriate conduct with a minor, let alone a girl whose father is right outside the confessional door.
"This one-sided complaint is only part of the story," Buting wrote in a statement shortly after Hanel was charged. "We look forward to bringing out all the facts and restoring Father Hanel’s name and reputation."
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee placed Hanel on administrative leave earlier this year after the girl's accusation surfaced. He will remain on administrative leave "until the charge is resolved," according to the archdiocese.
Hanel's preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 30. If convicted, he could face up to 40 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.