Court: Sex Abuse Case against Priest Can Move Forward

By Colleen Kottke
The Reporter
June 27, 2008

MADISON — A case against a former priest accused of sexually assaulting three Beaver Dam girls more than 40 years ago will go forward.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court issued its opinion Thursday afternoon in the Dodge County criminal case against Bruce Duncan MacArthur, 86. Former Dodge County District Attorney Steven Bauer filed charges more than two years ago against the former priest who worked as a chaplain during the mid-1960s at St. Joseph's Hospital.

Duncan, who resides in a nursing home in Missouri, is charged with two counts of sexual intercourse with a child, four counts of indecent behavior with a child and one count of attempted indecent behavior with a child.

A motion by MacArthur's attorney to dismiss the case due to the expiration of the statute of limitations was thrown out by Dodge County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Klossner in 2006. The case then moved to an appellate court in August 2006. The Court of Appeals forwarded the case on to the Wisconsin Supreme Court to decide because it raised novel, complex legal issues, Bauer said.

MacArthur's attorney argued that his client could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired. The state's highest court rejected that argument.

Under current state law, the statute of limitations for charges of sexual assault against a child runs out once a victim reaches 45 years of age. MacArthur's victims are all over the age of 50. However, Bauer argued that the statute of limitations had not run out on MacArthur because the former priest had left Wisconsin before it expired and did not return as a resident.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court supported Bauer's argument and said the case could move forward because the time (MacArthur) was out of state was not counted.

"In fact, in a recent session, the Legislature eliminated the statute of limitations for first-degree sexual assault of a child," Bauer told The Reporter in 2006.

According to allegations in the criminal complaint:

A 50-year-old woman told Beaver Dam police she was sexually abused by MacArthur from the time she was 10 years old until she was in high school.

The woman said the first assault took place in a hospital room at St. Joseph's Hospital in Beaver Dam where she was a patient. Several times a week, the priest would take the child home to his apartment where he would fondle her and have sex with her. The assaults also took place while she accompanied MacArthur on trips, the woman said.

Two other women reported that MacArthur attempted to molest them while they were patients at the hospital.

MacArthur is free on a $10,000 cash bond.



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