Attorney for the Pewaukee priest accused of sexual assault has ‘prejudiced’ the case, prosecutors argue

Journal Sentinel

March 1, 2019

By Steven Martinez

Prosecutors on Feb. 18 asked a Waukesha County Circuit judge to bar a Pewaukee priest accused of sexually assaulting a teenage congregant and his attorneys from making “extrajudicial” statements about the case.

The motion, commonly referred to as a “gag order,” argues that statements made by the priest, Chuck Hanel, and his attorney, Jerome Buting, could unfairly prejudice the case or “disseminate otherwise inadmissable or irrelevant information.”

Hanel was charged in September with second-degree sexual assault of a child about five months after a teenage girl told police Hanel groped her in a confessional at Queen of Apostles Church. After the charge was filed, both Hanel and Buting told various media outlets that Hanel, in 35 years in ministry, had never engaged in any inappropriate behavior with a minor.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Thurston argued in the motion that such statements “are absolutely irrelevant for purposes of whether (Hanel) sexually assaulted the victim (in December 2017).”

Buting argued in his response that the state mischaracterized the remarks, which were made “in response to the inflammatory prejudicial nature of the state’s one-sided criminal complaint and preliminary hearing testimony.”

Buting said his and his client’s statements “neatly fit” within the “safe harbor exception,” which allows an attorney to make statements that they believe will protect their client from the “substantial likelihood of undue prejudicial effect.”

According to court records, no date has been set for Judge Michael Maxwell to rule on the motion.

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