During Testimony, Hoefgen Denies Abusing Altar Boy
By David Unze
St. Cloud Times
May 22, 2015
Fran Hoefgen took the witness stand Friday and repeatedly denied that he sexually abused an altar boy when he was a priest at a Hastings church.
Hoefgen also said during his testimony that he had no recollection of the altar boy who is accusing him of abuse more than 20 years after it happened.
"I have waited for over 18 months for this day," Hoefgen said during his brief testimony Friday.
The prosecution and defense rested their cases Friday. Closing arguments are scheduled for Tuesday after which jurors will begin their deliberations.
Hoefgen, 64, is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Dakota County. He is accused of sexually abusing the altar boy from 1989-92 when he was priest at St. Boniface Church.
Hoefgen was calm and looked at the jury as he answered questions.
"Absolutely not" was the response he gave when asked if he sexually assaulted the altar boy, who is now 36 and testified earlier in the trial.
That man told jurors that Hoefgen raped him numerous times in a room behind the altar at the church, which has since been torn down.
The abuse happened when the boy was in fourth through sixth grades and ended when Hoefgen left the parish in 1992, the man testified. He said he never told anyone until 2013.
Three defense witnesses testified Friday about Masses and funerals at the church. The alleged victim testified that Hoefgen raped him after those services when he stayed behind to help clean up after the service.
A former priest at the church, a funeral director and the parish's pastoral minister testified that students didn't stay behind to help clean up after those services and that there was typically 3-5 minutes between the end of a funeral service and the time when the priest and altar boys needed to be outside the church to catch a ride to the cemetery.
Hoefgen's defense has been built around the presumption that the victim reported the abuse to police only to bolster a civil lawsuit from which he hoped to get a large monetary settlement.
Prosecutors recalled two of the three defense witnesses after Hoefgen testified that he hadn't had contact with them after he was charged and before the trial.
Both witnesses testified that Hoefgen had called to ask if they would be willing to speak to a defense team investigator. One of the witnesses said she was a longtime friend of Hoefgen's and that they had spoken several times in recent months.
The prosecution could emphasize that apparent dishonesty from Hoefgen during closing arguments.
Hoefgen was laicized from the priesthood in December 2011. That is a process in which a cleric is made a layperson.
Hoefgen had been placed on restriction by St. John's Abbey in 2002 after it received credible allegations against him of sexual misconduct.
He was a St. John's Abbey monk assigned as priest to the St. Boniface parish in Cold Spring when, in 1983, he sexually abused a 17-year-old boy who was living with him temporarily at the parish residence.
Hoefgen was interviewed by police and admitted the abuse. Within days of being interviewed by police Hoefgen was sent by the abbey to St. Luke Institute in Maryland, where he spent six months for evaluation and treatment.
He never was charged in Stearns County related to that abuse.
Hoefgen, after his stay at St. Luke Institute, was assigned by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to St. Boniface parish in Hastings. Hoefgen served there from 1985-92, during which time he abused the victim that led to the criminal charges, according to court documents.