Man Wins $550,000 in Sex Assault by Priest

By Chip Johnson
Saint Paul Pioneer Press
February 8, 1996

A Hennepin County jury awarded a Prior Lake man $550,000 in damages after finding that a Roman Catholic priest sexually molested him 14 years ago at a cabin in central Minnesota.

The jury found the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis negligent in its supervision and retention of the Rev. Robert Kapoun, also known as the "Polka Padre," and held the institution responsible, said Jeff Anderson, the attorney representing the victim in the civil case.

The victim, Dale Scheffler, now 28, still suffers from anxiety and depression as a result of the sexual assault, Anderson said.

Kapoun admitted an interest in boys on the first day of the trial, said Anderson, who has made a career of suing the Catholic Church. Five other males also testified at the trial that Kapoun sexually molested them, he added.

Monsignor Stanley Srnec testified that as early as 1983 he brought the allegations of sexual misconduct against Kapoun to the attention of former Archbishop John Roach, Anderson said.

At the trial, Roach couldn't remember the meeting. Calls to the archdiocese for comment were not returned.

The incident occurred in a Cold Spring cabin in June 1981 when Kapoun, who was assigned to St. Patrick's Church in St. Patrick, near New Prague, took Scheffler and another boy on a camping trip.

All three slept on the floor, and one evening Kapoun attempted to engage in sex with Scheffler, Anderson said.

Anderson said Kapoun first "gained the trust of parishioners and their youth" before taking the boys on recreational outings.

The archdiocese is accused of failing to take action in 1973 when a parishioner at the Church of St. Raphael in Crystal, where Kapoun was an assistant pastor, said he had molested a youth of that parish.

The attorney, who has tried more than 200 cases of sexual assaults by Catholic priests, including 50 in Minnesota, said the case was important because Kapoun had maintained his innocence.

"It's one of the most important because we have now exposed this priest so he will never say another Mass," said Anderson. "Now we are going back to expose the practices of this diocese, which goes back 30 years."

Kapoun, who worked for the archdiocese for 32 years, is assigned to three parishes around Heidelberg, a small town southwest of the Twin Cities. He had been assigned to six other parishes since his assignment in Crystal.

Anderson said he expects to proceed with the the punitive award phase of the trial in Hennepin County District Court today.


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