Wisconsin Supreme Court Won't Review Ex-Priest's Case

The Associated Press, carried in Duluth News Tribune [Wisconsin]
April 24, 2006

A defrocked priest has been denied his request for the Wisconsin Supreme Court to review his conviction two years ago on charges of sexually assaulting two altar boys in the 1970s.

John Patrick Feeney, 79, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a jury in Outagamie County Circuit Court convicted him in February 2004 on three counts of sexual assault of a child and one of attempted sexual assault of a child.

The sentence was upheld in December by the 3rd District Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court denied the request for review earlier this year, court records show.

Two adolescent brothers said they were molested by Feeney when he served as a priest at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Freedom.

The boys' mother testified at Feeney's trial that she tried to go to church authorities in 1978 to report his behavior, and she also contacted a sheriff's deputy, but Feeney was never prosecuted.

Investigators reopened the case in June 2002 following nationwide news accounts of sexual abuse by priests.

The two brothers, in an interview aired Monday evening by WBAY-TV of Green Bay, said they are glad Feeney's appeal is over, but they remain disappointed about a past state Supreme Court ruling that the Catholic church has immunity from civil suits in such cases.

They said they might be willing to go to Madison and testify on behalf of any legislative proposal to change the law.

Among other arguments raised on appeal, Feeney contended he had been wrongly charged. But the appeals court noted that he had left Wisconsin for California and Nevada in November 1983, months before the statute of limitations on the charges expired. By leaving the state, he put the limit on hold because he no longer resided in the state.

Feeney worked in 18 parishes over 30 years in the Green Bay diocese before leaving Wisconsin amid numerous allegations of sexual misconduct with adolescent boys, court records said.

Last August, Feeney was defrocked by the Vatican. He had been barred from publicly preaching since 1986.


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