Wisconsin priest testifies in his child sex assault trial, denies molesting altar boy

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JEFFERSON (WKOW) —  A Catholic priest on trial for the alleged sexual assaults of an altar boy in 2006 took the witness stand Thursday in Jefferson County Court and denied doing anything other than giving the child a friendly hug.

In earlier testimony in the trial of 66-year old William Nolan of Milwaukee, his now-26 year old accuser said he knew he was gay even as a teen, and welcomed as many as one hundred sexual encounters with Nolan beginning in 2006 and continuing through the boy’s early high school years.  At the time of the initial, alleged crimes, the accuser was an altar boy and middle school student at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and school in Fort Atkinson, and Nolan was the parish priest.

During his testimony, Nolan described his feelings when learning of the allegations from police personnel in May 2018.

“Mad, angry,”  Nolan said.  “Because it didn’t happen.”

Nolan testified he had two girlfriends before entering the priesthood in 1985 and was not gay.

He also said he had no inappropriate contact with the accuser, with the only physical contact with the boy being a friendly hug on one occasion.

The accuser testified earlier the sexual contact took place in Nolan’s church office, behind the church altar, at his home, and during a school cross country team practice.  But Nolan testified the lay out of the school and adjoining church would not have allowed the boy to go into his office undetected by staff and others, and maintained a fire door between the buildings would have stopped the accuser from using an alternate route.  The accuser testified earlier he used such a route to rendezvous with Nolan at the office undetected.

Nolan testified he ran three times with the school cross country team  in 2006, and did not run with the accuser, or leave the running trail with him to carry out a sex act, as the accuser alleged.  A former church parish council member who also said he ran at times with Nolan and the team said the men would bring up the rear of the running group to ensure the safety of team members.

During Nolan’s cross examination, Assistant Jefferson County District Attorney Brook Teuber pressed the priest over discrepancies between his answers on the witness stand, and answers he gave Fort Atkinson Police detectives when he was interrogated at his Madison church in 2018 and then arrested.

Nolan testified the only two times the accuser was at his home in 2006 was for an eighth grade grill-out, and to help him wax his car.

Detective Lisa Hefty testified Nolan never mentioned the car-related visit during the interrogation.

She also said when Nolan was interrogated, “he could not recall” if he had kissed the child.

Hefty testified Nolan told her during the interrogation he did not have a sexual relationship with the accuser “as far as he was concerned.”

“You have to realize the circumstances of the dumbfoundedness of the accusations I was presented in such a short period of time,”  Nolan said of the interrogation.

To try to reinforce the accuser’s ignorance of the physical features of the priest he claimed was a sex partner, Nolan unbuttoned his shirt and showed jurors a scar on his chest from heart surgery.  Photos of a skin tag on Nolan’s groin the size of a thumb tack were also shown to the jury.  The accuser’s earlier testimony included no reference to them.

The accuser maintained all the sexual contact was oral sex, or kissing and touching to arousal.

Nolan is facing five counts of child sexual assault in the trial that began Monday.

Thursday morning, the judge in the case dropped one of six felony accounts against a priest on trial for child sex assault, citing insufficient evidence.

The trial is expected to go to the jury Friday.

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