Priest's Sex Assault Trial Begins in Walworth County
By Mike Heine
February 18, 2006
ELKHORN-"A stereotypical Irishman with a twinkle in his eye."
That's how Walworth County District Attorney Phil Koss described Rev. Donald R. McGuire during opening statements in the retired priest's child sex assault trial that began Friday in Walworth County Court.
"People gravitated to him and they like him," Koss added.
McGuire, 75, of Chicago faces five nearly 40-year-old counts of indecent behavior with a child and 50 years in prison if convicted. His trial is expected to run through next week.
In the late 1960s, McGuire befriended two boys at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., where he taught several foreign languages and religion, Koss said. Eventually, McGuire began a pattern of massaging and rubbing the boys' genitals in both his on-campus living quarters in Illinois and at a Geneva Lake home in Fontana, Koss said.
The latter alleged touchings are what brought McGuire to trial in Walworth County.
Defense attorney Gerald P. Boyle said in his opening statement Friday that he expected Koss to try and link the allegations in Wisconsin to the allegations in Illinois. He reminded the jury that McGuire is only on trial for the alleged Wisconsin crimes.
But Boyle also noted that McGuire lived with 48 other priests and scholastics, and that there would be no witnesses who would say they ever saw any students in McGuire's room.
Boyle implied that McGuire's accusers, who are now 53 and 52 years old, had opportunity to conspire about the allegations. The two had filed a civil suit in Illinois against a Jesuit order that McGuire was once a part of.
The civil lawyer the men hired "put the two in touch with each other and they talked to each other time and time again," Boyle said. One conversation lasted three hours, he asserted.
McGuire's accusers, who were between 14 and 15 years old at the time of the alleged incidents, claim they did not know each other until 2003, when one of them came forward and filed a complaint with the school. The other came forward when he received a letter from Loyola Academy stating that McGuire had been accused of a crime, Koss said.
Both men allege that McGuire touched their genitals while they were staying at a lakefront home in Fontana, Koss said. One of the men told another priest about McGuire's alleged actions shortly after they occurred, Koss said.
The priest told Loyola Academy officials, where the situation stalled, Koss said. The boy transferred from the school and McGuire left the school shortly thereafter, Koss said.
A criminal suit was never brought against McGuire in Illinois because that state's statute of limitations had already expired when his accusers came forward, Koss said. An assistant state attorney from Cook County told the men they should notify Wisconsin authorities about the alleged assaults in Fontana, Koss said.
Koss said the men didn't speak out in their teen years because "that was at a time when kids were shamed and shunned. Now they have the strength to come forward."
To the boys attending the school in the late 1960s, priests were very well respected and held in the highest regard, Koss said.
And McGuire is one Jesuit who is held in very high regard. According to an online biography at a Catholic Missionary Web site, McGuire has traveled the globe teaching language and theology.
McGuire was ordained a priest in June 1961 and he's traveled to many European countries, across the U.S. and conducted countless religious retreats. He also knew Mother Teresa personally.
Though he's retired now, McGuire still has many supporters. Dozens are expected to attend the trial next week, and more than 50-including a handful of priests-attended McGuire's preliminary hearing last April.
Other friends have attended hearings throughout the case.
"I've known (McGuire) probably as well as I've known anybody for the past 50 years," said Dr. Bob Ryan, a surgeon from Lake Forest, Ill., after McGuire's initial appearance a year ago. "My heart goes out to him. It's a terrible thing to happen to anyone at this age.
"I base my life on the fact that these charges are based on monetary motives," Ryan added. "It's tragic. This guy spent his whole life helping people."
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