Former Pewaukee Priest Accused of Sexual Assault
Brothers File Suit against Milwaukee Archdiocese

Living Lake Country
September 9, 2009

David and Peter Neels filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court on Tuesday, Sept. 8, against the Milwaukee Archdiocese alleging that David Hanser of Nashotah, who they said had a known history of molesting children, assaulted them while he was a priest at St. Mary Catholic Church in Pewaukee in the early 1980s.

The lawsuit is the 12th civil fraud case pending against the archdiocese alleging sexual abuse by clergy.

According to the lawsuit, the archdiocese knew Hanser had a history of molesting children and failed to warn the Neels family. In the suit, David Neels of Hudson and Peter Neels of Cottage Grove, Minn., said Hanser sexually assaulted them for a period of years beginning in 1982, when they were 10 and 13 years old.

The lawsuit also claims that the archdiocese knew of Hanser's misconduct as early as the 1970s when a previous victim attempted to report that he was molested by Hanser at St. Joseph Church in Waukesha.

According to a 2003 investigation by Waukesha County authorities, Hanser may have molested as many as 12 boys beginning in the 1960s. The cases were not prosecuted, however, because the statute of limitations had expired.

Julie Wolf, spokeswoman for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, said Hanser's name has been listed on the archdiocese's online list of priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse since July 2004. Wolf also stated that the archdiocese made a statement in April 2002 recognizing the allegations against Hanser, who was laicized in 2005.

In a civil case filed in November 2002 by John and Patrice Ramstack, Hanser was accused of molesting John and three of his brothers in the late 1960s and early 1970s when Hanser was at Catholic Memorial High School and St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Brookfield, according to published reports.

Also according to those reports, Hanser was removed from St. Mary's parish in Pewaukee after the reported abuse and sent to serve as a chaplain at area hospitals, where he was to have no unsupervised contact with children. He retired in May 2002. Hanser could not be reached for comment.

Although Wisconsin law does not allow most lawsuits regarding old claims of sexual assault, last year the state Supreme Court ruled that the church can be sued for fraud if victims show it was aware of misconduct and failed to warn others.


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