Judge Allows Psychologist's Testimony in Sex-Abuse Case
Civil Trial Begins against Priest Accused of Molesting Former Youth at Facility

By Alan Gustafson
Statesman Journal
May 2, 2007

Portland — The Rev. Michael Sprauer engaged in risky sexual behavior with strangers, displaying warning signs typically found in sexual predators, a forensic psychologist testified Tuesday.

In a hearing prior to the opening of a civil lawsuit against the Salem priest, psychologist Frank Colistro said he detected high-risk indicators in Sprauer's videotaped deposition.

Sprauer admitted that he engaged in anonymous oral sex with adult males in restrooms during a 10-year period in the 1970s and '80s.

"That type of behavior is a serious warning sign of other deviant sexual behavior," said Colistro, hired as an expert witness by attorneys representing Sprauer's accusers in a sexual abuse lawsuit.

Colistro said he compiled a psycho-sexual risk assessment of the priest, based largely on Sprauer's deposition. He deemed it significant that the priest acknowledged that he had not sought counseling for any sexual-related issues.

"It tells me he was comfortable with that behavior," Colistro said.

The psychologist's testimony was assailed by attorneys for Sprauer and the state, who asked a judge to bar Colistro from testifying in front of a jury. The judge shot down the request.

The contentious issue surfaced Tuesday in a Portland courtroom, prior to jury selection in the civil lawsuit trial.

Three men — Robert Paul Jr., Randy Sloan and Norman Klettke Jr. — allege that Sprauer sexually abused them at the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn in the 1970s. At that time, Sprauer was chaplain at the state-run juvenile facility.

Decades later, the plaintiffs are suing Sprauer and the state for damages.

Attempting to block Colistro from testifying in front of a jury, attorneys for Sprauer and the state attacked the validity of his conclusions.

They stressed that Colistro conducted his assessment without personally examining Sprauer.

They also argued that Colistro's testimony could bias the jury.

Sprauer's attorney, Thomas Cooney Sr., of Lake Oswego, said Sprauer's acts of consensual sex in public restrooms had no relevance to the alleged sexual abuse of juvenile offenders at MacLaren.

Daniel Gatti, a Salem attorney representing Sprauer's accusers, countered that Colistro's testimony would demonstrate that Sprauer engaged in a pattern of predatory and deviant sexual behavior.

Since mid-2003, more than 15 men have sued Sprauer, alleging that he sexually abused them while he was MacLaren's chaplain in the 1970s. Six other suits are pending in Marion County.

Sprauer has denied all of the sexual abuse allegations against him. The Catholic priest attended Tuesday's courtroom session. He watched quietly, showing no reaction to Colistro's testimony. Sprauer's three accusers looked on from the other side of the Multnomah County courtroom.

Delivering a blow to the priest and his defenders, Judge Marshall Amiton ruled that Colistro would be allowed to testify in front of the jury.

However, Amiton placed tight clamps on the psychologist's prospective testimony.

According to the judge's ruling, Colistro will be allowed to testify about Sprauer's "high risk" sexual behavior. But the psychologist won't be allowed to describe the priest as a sexual predator.

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