September Trial Set for Former Fort Priest
By Ryan Whisner
Jefferson County Daily Union
February 15, 2019
A week-long September trial has been set for a former Fort Atkinson priest charged with molesting an altar boy during his tenure at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
The Rev. William A. Nolan, 65, formerly of Madison, has pleaded not guilty to six felony counts of sexual assault of a child under the age of 16 that reportedly occurred while he was serving at the Fort Atkinson parish from 2002-07 and for some years beyond.
The alleged victim, now 26, alleges that the incidents of assault began in February 2006 and occurred over a five-year period when he was ages 13-17. He told authorities that the alleged contact between them occurred more than 100 times.
If convicted of the combined charges, Nolan is facing a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison for each of the six counts.
On Thursday, Nolan appeared before Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge William Hue for a motion hearing.
As part of the proceeding, Nolan’s attorney, Jonas Bednarek, and Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Brookellen Teuber, who is prosecuting the case, came to an agreement to set the trial for the week of Sept. 9.
The timeframe allows for an extensive jury-selection process and to address any issues with out-of-state witnesses.
Judge Hue said heintends there to be a regular 12-person jury with three alternates.
A pool of 175 county residents will be summoned as potential jurors specifically for this case and sent the juror questionnaire. From that process, the anticipation is to end up with 80 to 100 jurors being in the panel for the jury-selection process at trial.
Hue said he intends to call the potential jurors for individual voir dire, with the questionnaire helping to limit the questions.
Approximately 12 weeks are needed for the jury panel to be summoned to allow time for the questionnaire to go out and be completed and returned.
Also Thursday, Bednarek’s motion to compel production of the alleged victim’s treatment records was reviewed by the judge.
Teuber indicated that she had spoken with the alleged victim and he advised that he was willing to consent to the release of his treatment records.
The records are expected to be filed with the court before the end of February.
In the motion, Bednarek had cited two issues for the judge to consider in his review of the records: the nature of the relationship with Nolan and any issues in psychological records concerning the alleged victim’s propensity for lying.
“I was informed through reports provided by the state that the complaining witness sought counseling and, in the course of that counseling, he reportedly discussed sexual experiences with Mr. Nolan, and he was seeking therapy at the time because he had been lying to people,” the defense attorney said, noting that was the basis for his request to compel the release of the records.
Under the law, it is the judge who reviews the records and must attempt to take into consideration the viewpoint of either the defense or prosecution and determine the records’ release.
“It is not my life’s goal to look into people’s private mental health-care records,” Hue said. “I do it because the Legislature says to do it, but I have to do it within some context.”
The judge pointed out that the tension within the procedure is that he has to be looking for something.
“It is difficult to tell what is exculpatory,” Hue said. “I’m not prosecuting the case. I don’t know the theory of the case. I tend to let people try their case and I tend to let them defend it as well and just become involved as a third-party neutral in fairness of justice.”
He said that under state law relating to releasing such records, he is put into the position of thinking from the defense attorney’s perspective.
“I know very little about this case on purpose,” Hue said.
Bednarek proposed the option of issuing a protective order, and allowing himself and Teuber to review the records. Hue said he only would consider that option if the alleged victim also were involved because the prosecutor does not protect the interest of the person whose records they are.
The judge suggested, and both Bednarek and Teuber were supportive of, reconvening for a hearing in March on the outcome of the Hue’s review. In addition, consideration was given that the juror questionnaire approval would be delayed until the the March hearing to allow an opportunity to add any questions relevant to the records, if necessary.
Nolan’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 21.
At the preliminary hearing in June 2018, a Fort Atkinson police detective testified that the Fort Atkinson Police Department had received a telephone call from the alleged victim, who reported numerous sexual assaults that occurred to him while he was attending St. Joseph’s Catholic School.
Investigators had contact with the victim by telephone, email and in person to discuss the allegations.
The alleged assaults started after the then-13-year-old boy, now 26, disclosed to Nolan that he was gay and the priest allegedly told him it would be OK.
The boy would serve at Mass or funerals and would see Nolan with regularity.
The specific charges resulted from more specific dates and times over the years that the man could recall alleged encounters happening between the two of them.
Per testimony at the preliminary hearing, the alleged sexual encounters occurred in multiple locations, including at the priest’s office; the altar boy room at the Endl Boulevard church; the rectory (the priest’s home), located at 1512 Dommo Drive; and other places in the community, including Dorothy Carnes County Park.
When questioned by authorities, Nolan reportedly stated that he did not have a sexual relationship with the boy as far as he was concerned. He also did not admit to any sexual contact with the alleged victim.
Although he has been retired since 2007 and does not hold any ecclesiastical office or function, the Madison Bishop placed him on what commonly is called administrative leave.
Currently, he remains free on a $50,000 signature bond and is residing in Milwaukee.