Priest Sentenced to 10 Years
Boy Brought to Milwaukee from Illinois, Sexually Assaulted

By Derrick Nunnally
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel [Milwaukee WI]
June 3, 2005

A Catholic priest from Illinois who brought an altar boy to Milwaukee for sexual encounters at least twice in the 1980s was sentenced Friday to 10 years in a Wisconsin prison.

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Francis Engels, 69, was arrested in December and in April entered Alford pleas to two counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child. In an Alford plea, a defendant concedes he would likely be convicted by a jury based on evidence against him but does not admit wrongdoing. Because he was convicted under an old law, Engels will eligible for parole in 2 1/2 years and will likely be released from prison after less than 7 years.

Daniel Koenigs, now 36, choked back tears as he told Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Hansher how Francis Engels had maneuvered him into sexual situations with Engels and other priests and how it drove Koenigs to attempt suicide several times.

"I remember his exact words: 'If you tell anybody, they're not going to believe you,' " Koenigs said, "and I remembered that for a long time."

Engels initiated sexual contact with Koenigs when the altar boy was 12, Assistant District Attorney Jane Carroll said. Engels was a priest at a different parish in Peoria, Ill., but met the boy at a church festival and cultivated an involvement that lasted several years, including trips to the Milwaukee County Zoo in 1982 and to Brewers games in 1983. Koenigs, Carroll said, tried several times in vain to end the relationship, but Engels "would beg him for sex" and lure the boy back.

Koenigs said the situation haunted him for years, all the way to his wedding day, when Koenigs' mother insisted that Engels' bond as a family friend meant he should perform the ceremony. Hansher described that as an "ironic and horrifying" element of the case.

The sexual abuse came to the Catholic Church's attention in 1993, when Engels agreed to go into therapy and stop representing himself publicly as a priest. Since then, Engels has logged more than 1,000 hours of therapy, paid for by the Illinois archdiocese, and, under the agreement, says Mass for himself in his apartment, said his attorney, David Geraghty.

In a deep, raspy voice, Engels apologized to Koenigs and his family.

"I betrayed their trust and destroyed our friendship as well," Engels said.

Koenigs had been given the chance to ask Hansher to limit how much he could be recorded in court by television news cameras, but he declined to ask for any restrictions and stayed to be interviewed after deputies led Engels away to jail. Koenigs had started the process that led to Engels' prosecution by contacting legal jurisdictions where Engels had taken him for sex, which began the Milwaukee police investigation.

That determination led Peter Isley, spokesman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, to call Koenigs a "hero" who had deterred other abuses.

"If somebody watches and it helps them, great," Koenigs said quietly after consenting to be recorded.