DA May Charge Friar, Others

By Marie Rohde
Milwaukee Journal
December 21, 1992

Fond du Lac County Dist. Atty. Thomas Storm said Monday that he had probable cause to issue felony charges against a teacher at St. Lawrence Seminary preparatory school accused of sexual misconduct.

Storm also said he was considering charges against other faculty members for failing to report the alleged abuse. The school, operated by the Roman Catholic Capuchin order, is one of the few remaining seminary high schools in the country and one of the largest, with about 200 students.

About 30 brothers and priests known as friars also live on the grounds of the school, near Mount Calvary in Fond du Lac County. The school opened in 1857.

The Milwaukee Journal reported Sunday on accusations by eight former students that five friars sexually abused them while they were teenage students at the school in the early 1970s. One described an incident in the late 1980s.

The students are all adult males now. The students, a lay teacher and parents say they went to authorities with their allegations at the time but nothing was done.

Athletic Director Investigated

Storm declined to name the subjects of his investigation. However, The Milwaukee Journal learned that Brother Thomas Gardipee, the athletic director of the school as of last week, is under investigation.

A spokeswoman for an organization of former students who say they were abused said Monday that the group had received 14 calls Sunday asking to talk to someone personally about their experiences.

A man who called a special hot line number established by The Journal said Sunday that he had been abused at the school in the early 1960s. The caller did not leave his name.

Storm said the charges he was considering included enticing a child for immoral purposes and intimidation of a victim. The enticement charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The intimidation charge carries a maximum of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Failing to report sexual abuse is misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The statute of limitations on most felonies, including the enticement charge, is six years, Storm said. For misdemeanors, the statute of limitations is three years.

'Allegations Flying Around'

"There's a lot of allegations flying around out there that's outside the statute of limitations," Storm said. "But we are investigating this case thoroughly."

The Journal reported in its article Sunday that four students accused Gardipee of providing them with alcohol, erotic magazines and condoms. Two said Gardipee asked them to masturbate with him on separate occasions.

Tim Scott, then a lay teacher at the school, said he took sworn statements from the students to Capuchin officials at the school but that those officials declined to interview the students and did not take action against Gardipee.

Another student said Gardipee masturbated in front of him and also harassed him.

Gardipee Removed From Job

Storm said he has been assured that Gardipee was removed from his post at the school because of the charges. Storm said he had agreed to wait until he had a chance to sit down with Gardipee's lawyer, Gerald Boyle, before issuing any charges.

"If I had not had the assurances that that person had been removed from the school, I would have issued charges immediately," Storm said.

He said school officials have said that they wanted to cooperate fully but had also said that on the advice of attorneys, they had declined to comment.

"School systems like to take care of these things in-house and it looks like that's what happened here," he said.

Asked whether a broader investigation would be undertaken in an effort to uncover any current abuse allegations, Storm noted that students had gone home for the Christmas break and that such an investigation would be the role of the Fond du Lac County Sheriff's Department and the county's Department of Social Services.


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