Retired Priest Nolan Angry about Child Sexual Abuse Allegations: "It Didn't Happen"
By Rose Schmidt
September 12, 2019
The retired priest being tried on child sexual abuse charges took the stand Thursday in his own defense.
William Nolan is accused of sexually assaulting an altar boy more than 100 times over four years, starting in 2006 when the accuser was 13 years old. At the time the accuser says the abuse began, Nolan was the priest at St. Joseph's Church in Fort Atkinson.
Nolan testified in Jefferson County court Thursday morning. His defense attorney, Jonas Bednarek, asked at one point how one of the accusations made him feel.
"Mad, angry," Nolan replied.
"Why?" Bednarek asked.
"Because it didn't happen," Nolan said.
The judge dropped one of the six felony charges Nolan is facing.
The jury heard testimony from three witnesses Thursday: Lisa Hefty, the Fort Atkinson police detective to whom the accuser first reported the allegations; Michael Bender, a religious education teacher who volunteered at St. Joseph's, where the accuser attended school and church; and Paul Wertsch, Nolan's longtime family physician.
Hefty testified that she asked the accuser whether Nolan had any birthmarks and the accuser was not able to remember any.
When Wertsch took the stand, he said Nolan had two long surgical scars -- one on his chest and another on his leg -- as a result of having heart surgery at age 26. During his testimony, Nolan unbuttoned his shirt and lifting up his pant leg to show both scars to the jury.
Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Brookellen Teuber asked Nolan about a statement he gave to Hefty when she questioned him in 2018.
When Hefty had asked Nolan whether he ever kissed the accuser, he reportedly said he could not recall.
"Do you think kissing a child would be memorable?" Teuber asked Nolan.
"No," Nolan replied.
Nolan said at church, children would on occasion kiss him on the cheek and he would kiss them on the forehead.
The accuser testified that sexual encounters between him and Nolan happened at the church, Nolan's home (the rectory owned by the church) and multiple public places.
While Nolan was on the stand, he said the accuser had been to the rectory twice: once for a middle school cookout and once when the accuser showed up unannounced because he was "bored" and ended up helping Nolan wash his car.
Nolan said he was "dumbfounded" to learn of the allegations against him. He said in 2018, when a police detective came to the church where he was practicing, he gave her a hug before realizing who she was and why she was there.
Bednarek also asked Nolan whether he had thought before about sexual abuse allegations involving clergy members.
"Did you feel as though this was a nightmare coming true?" Bednarek asked.
"Absolutely," Nolan said.
"Were you thinking clearly at that point?" Bednarek asked.
"No," Nolan said.
"What was going through your mind?" his attorney asked.
"How this was going to affect my vocation and my life," Nolan said.
On Wednesday, the judge said the case could head to the jury for deliberation as soon as lunchtime Thursday. However, in court Thursday morning, he said due to delays, the closing arguments will happen Friday.