Priest Charged with Abusing Teen
Complaint Says Boy Volunteer Was Handcuffed, Sexually Massaged in Room at Church Facility
By Jessica Hansen
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Wisconsin]
January 12, 2002
A south-central Wisconsin priest could face nearly 12 years in prison over allegations that he handcuffed and sexually massaged a 16-year-old boy who served as a church volunteer.
Father Timothy E. Svea, 38, of Wausau was suspended from all priestly duties in March 2001 after allegations of sexual abuse surfaced at the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign in Cashton, in Monroe County, church officials said.
If convicted, Svea could face up to 10 years in prison on felony charges of false imprisonment and exposing a child to harmful material, according to the complaint, which was filed Dec. 19 in Monroe County Circuit Court.
He could face an additional 18 months in prison on charges of fourth-degree sexual assault and exposing his genitals, both misdemeanors. According to the criminal complaint: The abuse began in the spring of 1998, months after the victim, then 15 years old, joined the institute and moved to St. Mary's Ridge, an affiliated organization.
The victim, now 20, told investigators in March that Svea gave him "lots of extra attention" during his stay, inviting the boy into his office to show him pictures of naked men.
Svea later showed him pictures in magazines and on the Internet depicting male homosexual activity.
At first there was no physical contact between Svea and the boy. But after his mother died, within his first year of living at St. Mary's Ridge, the boy said Svea asked him to meet in Svea's room at the same time each night for massages.
At first, the boy said in the complaint, "he would give Svea neck and back rubs but nothing else occurred."
After the boy's 16th birthday, he said Svea gave him weekly massages in which the priest touched the boy's genitals.
The boy also massaged Svea, the complaint says. During those massages, the boy said if he would "skip over" Svea's genital area, Svea would tell the boy he "needed to do a more thorough job," the complaint says.
In April 1999, the boy left St. Mary's Ridge. During an overnight visit to St. Mary's Ridge, the boy, then 17, said while he lay on the bed waiting for a massage, Svea "undressed to his shorts and brought out a pair of handcuffs, stating they were trick handcuffs."
The complaint says Svea chained the boy's wrists to the bed spindle and tied his feet to the footboard, removed both his and the boy's shorts and touched the boy. When the boy tried to get the cuffs off, "the cuffs only tightened."
When the incident was over, the complaint says, Svea "began to shake and appeared scared that (the boy) was going to get free."
When Svea finally removed the cuffs, the boy told investigators, "the bed was in bad shape because he bent the frame while trying to free himself."
J. David Rice, a Sparta attorney hired by the institute, said Friday that "the institute became aware of the accusations in March 2001 and had known nothing of them before that."
"When accusations surfaced last March, his (Svea's) priestly faculties, or his authority to act as a priest, were immediately suspended," said Rice, adding, "He has had no function in any capacity on behalf of (the) Institute, the diocese or any other religious society since then."
Rice said Svea was not even with the institute when charges were filed in December. The priest, who joined the institute in about 1996, was transferred in fall 2000.
"He was transferred to another parish for reasons that have nothing to do with any of these charges," Rice said. Rice said he does not represent Svea, has never talked to him and is unsure where the priest was transferred.
The institute has sent a letter to young people and others involved in youth development in the parish offering pastoral care for "any others who may be victims," Rice said.
No court date had been set as of Friday in Svea's case.
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