Priest's Sex Assault Trial to Continue Next Week

By Ed Treleven
Wisconsin State Journal
December 3, 2011

A Madison priest's sexual assault trial, which was scheduled to end Friday, will continue next week when jurors will hear more testimony and closing arguments.

Lawyers for the Rev. Joseph Gibbs Clauder, 65, began presenting their case Friday morning after Assistant District Attorney Robert Kaiser called his last witness. The defense ended the day with a consulting psychologist who testified that a 22-year-old woman who said Clauder touched her pubic area in 2003 and 2004 was falsely remembering events, but not intentionally.

Dr. Michael Spierer testified that the woman's memories of events have been reconfigured to the point that it is now much more difficult to separate what really happened from what didn't.

"It changed the memories of what had happened," Spierer testified.

The woman has alleged that Clauder touched her pubic area outside her swimsuit at a Stevens Point hotel during a family gathering in December 2003, when she was 14 years old, and that her cousin witnessed the touching. She also alleged that Clauder committed a similar act in April or May 2004 at her home in Monona and that Clauder exposed himself to her there in July 2004.

Clauder is charged with sexual assault of a child only for the alleged act in April or May 2004.

According to testimony, the memories of the incidents emerged slowly, coming out in increments first to her therapist in 2008 and to her parish priest and family in February 2009.

Spierer testified that the woman started psychiatric therapy in 2006, when she was 16, and that some facets of the therapy, including a technique called guided memory, inadvertently led to reconfiguration of her memory about the events to the point that it is unreliable. He also testified that some of her psychiatric symptoms may have been colored by textbooks she was reading for a class she was taking at Madison Area Technical College, because she is susceptible to suggestion.

He testified that some of the disclosure about the alleged assaults occurred around the time that she was taking the MATC course.

Spierer disagreed with prosecution psychologist Dr. Anna Salter, who testified Tuesday that the woman has post-traumatic stress disorder, which cannot be caused by false memories of sexual abuse. Spierer testified that there was insufficient evidence pointing to a PTSD diagnosis and that false memories could cause some symptoms of PTSD.

Clauder's defense team will continue its case on Monday, and Kaiser could put rebuttal witnesses on the stand afterward. Closing arguments to the jury would follow.


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