Priest Signs Signature Bond

Green Bay Press-Gazette
October 1, 2003

Stein accused of fondling teen in 1988

Dressed in a sweater and black tennis shoes and flanked by a lawyer, the Rev. James Stein made his initial appearance Tuesday in Brown County Circuit Court on charges that he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old boy in the shower and hot tub of the St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere.

Court Commissioner John Burdick ordered Stein to sign a signature bond, promising to return to court, and ordered that he have no contact with the alleged victim. Stein is due back in court for a preliminary hearing Oct. 27.

Stein has been under investigation for more than 18 months, but lived out of state until recently. The alleged victim, now 29, said the attacks happened in August or September of 1988, the summer before his freshman year of high school.

Leaving court Tuesday, Stein would not respond to a reporter's questions.

According to the criminal complaint, Stein asked the boy to go swimming at the abbey and reached under the boy's swimming suit and touched his genitals as the two sat in a hot tub. The boy left the tub and went into the shower area, where Stein allegedly fondled him a second time. The boy said he spun away and got dressed.

According to the complaint, the boy returned to the abbey hot tub with Stein and a group of teens a few months later. The boy told investigators Stein again reached under his swim trunks, prompting the teen to leave the tub.

Stein faces three counts of felony second-degree sexual assault of a child. Stein was placed on administrative leave in April 2002 by Abbot E. Thomas De Wane and has not served as a priest since that time. He recently returned to Brown County, which prompted criminal charges to be filed.

In the packed courtroom gallery, Dave and Mary Lee LeFevre of Luxemburg sat holding childhood pictures of their deceased son Dave. They held the photos outstretched as Stein left court. He didn't break stride.

After the brief hearing, the LeFevres tearfully talked about their son and his suicide in January 2002 at age 32. The couple was adamant they had no evidence of wrongdoing but questioned their son's relationship with Stein given the recent allegations.

Stein "befriended my son in high school," Mary Lee LeFevre said. "He would take five or six kids and go swimming and for pizza.

"It's the same pattern ... and it's hard to dismiss it," David LeFevre said. "We're hoping nothing happened to Dave, but we'll never know."

After learning that Stein was convicted in 1991 of misdemeanor fourth-degree sexual assault for inappropriately touching a male college student in a sauna, Mary LeFevre confronted her son about his friendship with Stein.

He maintained Stein never acted inappropriately.

But knowing their son was close with Stein during that same time creates questions for two parents looking to explain their son's death.

The LeFevres made a public call for anyone with information about alleged misconduct by Stein or other clergy to speak out.

"If there are other people out there, they have to know that they are not alone," David LeFevre said. "If we can help one person come forward ... then it's worth it. That's why we're speaking out."


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