Judge to Rule on Priest's Fate in Sex Abuse Case

By Andy Nelesen
Green Bay Press-Gazette
January 27, 2004

A Brown County Circuit Court judge will decide if the Rev. James Stein was in Wisconsin long enough over the last decade to avoid prosecution by the statute of limitations.

Stein, a Norbertine priest, faces three counts of second-degree sexual assault of a child for allegedly fondling a 14-year-old boy in 1988. The boy, now 29, alleges Stein touched him while they swam and used the hot tub at the St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere.

State law sets the time limit for prosecution on second-degree sexual assault at six years, but the clock stops ticking if the defendant is out of Wisconsin.

Prosecutors maintain that Stein was assigned outside of Wisconsin since July 1992 and did not return until September 2003.

Abbot Gary Neville testified at a motion hearing Monday, listing Stein's assignments over the last decade.

Neville said Stein was assigned to the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Chicago in 1992 and lived with Norbertine seminarians in a house in the Chicago area. Stein spent several years working, studying and receiving mental health treatment in Chicago before being transferred to an assignment in Jackson, Miss.

Neville said Stein was moved back to Chicago in June 2002 to work with inmates at the Cook County Jail in Illinois.

Neville said Stein only returned to the Green Bay area because Norbertine officials knew sexual assault charges were imminent.

Steven Glynn, Stein's lawyer, filed a motion challenging the prosecution, claiming that Stein was in Wisconsin enough over the years to outlive the statute of limitations. Stein claims he was back in the state 1,135 days -- three years, one month and 10 days -- which could place him outside the time limits.

Stein testified he culled the list of dates from his personal calendars and his visits were for Norbertine functions at the abbey, holidays, funerals, weddings and conferences.

Brown County District Attorney John Zakowski said prosecutors expected Stein to make this argument, but they feel confident that the court -- and the math -- with fall on the state's side.

"If we didn't think we would have a handle on this, we wouldn't have charged (the case)," Zakowski said.

Assistant District Attorney Dana Johnson, who argued the case in court, said the prosecution believes that even though Stein got mail at the De Pere abbey and was even called for jury duty in Brown County, he was living outside the state for that time.

The statute states someone must be a resident of Wisconsin and be in the state for the time limit to apply.

Glynn argued that it is the time his client was physically in the state that should be considered.

Bischel allowed Johnson two weeks to file written memos to flesh out his arguments.

Glynn also filed a motion to exclude evidence pertaining to Stein's 1991 conviction for fourth-degree sexual assault stemming from an incident with a male college student at the St. Norbert Abbey.

The lawyers did not make argument on that motion Monday.

Bischel set a trial date for Aug. 31


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