Madison Priest Acquitted in Sexual Assault

By Ed Treleven
December 6, 2011

A Madison priest was acquitted late Monday in the alleged 2004 sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl, ending a trial that started last week.

Joseph Gibbs Clauder, 65, and his lawyer, Stephen Eisenberg, hugged and clapped one another's backs after the verdict, by a jury of seven women and five men, was read by Dane County Circuit Judge William Hanrahan.

It took the jury about 10 hours to reach a verdict.

"There is a proverb," Clauder said after the verdict. "Sometimes God puts us through troubled waters not to drown us but to make us stronger. I feel vindicated and stronger."

Eisenberg said he was not surprised at the verdict, only that it took so long in a case in which he said there was so much doubt.

The girl, now 22, alleged that in April or May 2004, Clauder came to her house, asked for a tour and touched her pubic area outside her clothes in her bedroom. She testified in court last week that Clauder had done a similar thing at a hotel in Stevens Point during a family gathering in December 2003.

Clauder has not had a public role in the church since 1999, when he was removed from public ministry because of an allegation of sexual misconduct involving an adult woman.

In his closing argument Monday, Assistant District Attorney Robert Kaiser said the psychological pain the young woman endured since the events in 2003 and 2004 "are proof of what happened that day."

She was patient and sincere as she testified last week, Kaiser said, even as the most personal aspects of her life were exposed to jurors. She had no motive to lie, Kaiser said, and the psychiatric conditions for which she was diagnosed were consistent with being the victim of sexual abuse.

Kaiser said her story came out slowly because the young woman was afraid of how her family would react. And prosecution psychologist Dr. Anna Salter testified that "(the woman) didn't report because she didn't want to go through this," Kaiser said. "There's nothing positive about reporting."

Eisenberg argued the young woman was remembering and reporting events incorrectly, but not because anyone intended to plant or recite false memories. Instead, psychiatric symptoms and pieces of the story were suggested to the young woman by materials from classes she took, by questions from therapists regarding her symptoms and from her own dreams.

"Nobody said the suggestions had to be intentional," Eisenberg said. Also, elements of the stories did not add up, he said, and the incident in Stevens Point "never happened."

"The state has not proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt," he said. "This man didn't do this."

Any original material on these pages is copyright 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.