Former Priest Defends His Friend at Trial
Man Says He Drove Inmate to Funeral; Sprauer Did Not Go
By Alan Gustafson
May 9, 2007
Portland -- The Rev. Michael Sprauer's defense against sexual abuse allegations opened Tuesday with witness testimony that supported the Salem priest's claims of innocence.
Gordon Dickey, a former Catholic priest who succeeded Sprauer as chaplain at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn in 1975, testified that it was himself -- not Sprauer -- who drove a teenage inmate to his sister's funeral in July 1975.
Dickey's account contradicted a graphic sex-abuse allegation leveled against Sprauer by Randy Sloan, 49, of Aumsville -- one of three plaintiffs in the Multnomah County case.
Sloan previously told the 12-member jury that Sprauer transported him from MacLaren to his Aumsville home to attend his sister's funeral. On the way, Sloan testified, Sprauer pulled to the side of a rural road and forced him to perform oral sex.
Dickey, 71, said he was certain that he was Sloan's driver. And, he said, no sexual abuse happened.
Recounting the drive with Sloan, Dickey told the jury that the teenager was emotionally distraught in the wake of his sister's death.
"He was very upset. He was grieving," the ex-priest said.
Dickey remembered that Sloan asked him to stop at the spot where his sister died.
"He wanted to see the ditch because he couldn't believe someone could drown there," he said.
Under cross-examination by Salem attorney Daniel Gatti, who is representing Sprauer's accusers, Dickey said he could not remember certain details, such as the color of Sloan's hair at that time and the size of the boy's home.
However, Dickey said he remembered driving Sloan home because of the tragic circumstances of his sister's death and because it was the only time during his tenure as MacLaren chaplain that he took an inmate off campus.
Dickey said he left the priesthood in 1978. He now works as a marriage and family therapist.
Years ago, he and Sprauer traveled together as part of a large group visiting the former Soviet Union, Dickey said. They remain friends today, he said.
Also testifying Tuesday was Larry Zinsli, a former priest who served as MacLaren chaplain from 1978 until 1983. During his tenure, Zinsli said, Sprauer did not visit the Woodburn campus, at least not to his knowledge.
That point is important because another Sprauer accuser, Norman Klettke Jr., testified that Sprauer sexually abused him in late 1978 at MacLaren -- several years after Sprauer stepped down at the juvenile facility and became chaplain at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem.
Other testimony helpful to Sprauer's defense came from Donald Brusch, a former MacLaren employee who said that he worked extensively in Benson Cottage, a detention unit with segregation cells, while Sprauer was chaplain in the 1970s.
Some of the accusations against Sprauer in the current case, as well as in lawsuits pending against him in Marion County, allege that he sexually preyed on juvenile inmates in their segregation cells.
Brusch told the jury that Sprauer was diligent about not going into cells to talk with inmates.
"Father Mike was one of those," he said, referring to staff members who chose not to make cell visits. "He would not go into the cellblock."
Taking the stand Tuesday, Sprauer told the jury that he refrained from going into inmate cells for safety and security reasons.
agustafs@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6709
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