Second Alleged Victim Testifies
By Dan Wilson
February 25, 2004
APPLETON -- In the second day of the trial of a former priest charged with sexual assault, a 38-year-old man testified today how he was assaulted just like his older brother.
The man was 12 in 1978 when the alleged incidents occurred both in his own bedroom and at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Freedom during a face-to-face confession.
The two brothers are the key witnesses in the jury trial of John Patrick Feeney before Outagamie County Circuit Judge Dennis Luebke.
Feeney, 76, a defrocked Catholic priest who lives in Los Angeles, is charged with four counts of attempted sexual assault of a child and one count of sexual assault of a child. The charges carry a combined maximum of 65 years in prison.
Under questioning today from special prosecutor Vince Biskupic, the witness described an incident in May 1978 in which Feeney came into his bedroom and touched him inappropriately.
"He asked me if I knew what he was touching," the witness testified in describing the alleged incident at the church, saying Feeney had his hand on the boy's crotch.
"And he asked me to spell it," the man said, remembering that he misspelled the word penis. He said Feeney made the boy respell the word correctly and then he took his hand away.
"I didn't tell anybody."
Tuesday's testimony took the seven-man, six-woman jury back to a 14-year-old boy's bedroom in Freedom in May 1978.
At the time, Feeney was the parish priest at St. Nicholas Catholic Church. The boys took religious study classes at St. Nicholas and one of them was an altar boy.
According to the alleged victim, Feeney had been visiting the family and two of the three sons went to bed while Feeney was still chatting with the parents in the living room.
At some point, Feeney allegedly told the parents he wanted to say good night to the boys.
"And my door opened up and the light was turned on," the alleged victim said. "It was Mr. Feeney.
"He sat down on the edge of my bed and I was laying on my back with my head up on my pillow," he said. "He then asked me questions about whether or not I had girlfriends."
The man said he stammered something about concentrating more on his schoolwork than on girls. "He then put his hand inside of my pajama top and he started rubbing my chest, the whole chest area, for what seemed like a very long time," he said.
"What were you thinking?" asked Biskupic.
"I was just in total shock," he said. "You don't know what to think at that point. He is such an authority figure."
But it didn't stop there, he testified. The man said Feeney's hand began to drift downward to the waistband of his pajamas.
"At that point I gave a shrug, shook him off and pushed away from him and I rolled over on my belly," he said.
Feeney then left the room, but came back a few minutes later. The man said he was still lying face down. "And he gave my butt a big pinch and then he left the room," he said.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Gerald Boyle, the man admitted that his brother came into the room shortly after the incident and asked him if anything happened and he said no. "I was in such a state of shock from an authority figure I just didn't want to talk about it," he said.
Boyle spent most of his cross-examination asking questions about two police reports, one filed in 1979 and another in 2002. He pointed to the 1979 report that indicated the man's younger brother was sharing his room. The man said that was an obvious error "because I did not share my room with my brother."
The man's younger brother later told his mother what happened and the older brother then admitted he was also assaulted.
Most of the first day of the trial was taken up with jury selection and opening arguments.
At times during the proceedings Feeney appeared to doze off.
During his opening statement, Biskupic noted that in addition to the incidents in the home, the younger brother, scheduled to testify today, was assaulted during a confessional.
Boyle, in his opening statement, said the evidence would show ambiguities and inconsistencies in the two brothers' testimony.
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