Priest Pleads to Assault of Child
Father Stein Pleads No Contest

WBAY-TV [Green Bay Wisconsin]
August 30, 2004

A Norbertine priest accused of sexual assault involving a child averted a trial slated to start Tuesday by entering a "no contest" plea Monday.

Late Monday afternoon, Father James Stein pleaded no contest to one of three counts of second-degree sexual assault, a felony. The other two counts were dismissed in the plea bargain.

According to police, Stein fondled a 14-year-old boy at the St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere between August and September of 1988.

All along, Stein's lawyer maintained his client's innocence. The defense also tried to have the case dismissed, arguing the statute of limitations had expired, which technically it did, but a judge ruled the statute was frozen for the period of time Stein lived outside of Wisconsin.

It was a very quick proceeding, one which both sides worked out in letters back and forth late last week. The court did not hear from the victim, but several family members who were preparing for the trial were there.

Stein's attorney said the priest is pleading no contest instead of guilty not to avoid responsibility but because there is a concern about civil liability.

If the two sides hadn't reached an agreement, 80 potential jurors were scheduled to come to the courthouse Tuesday morning to begin trial selection.

Stein faces up to ten years in prison when he's sentenced in mid-December, but the district attorney indicated he would only ask for five years.


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