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Priest convicted of molesting boy wants new trial

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published June 1926, 2007, 1:53 p.m.)

New evidence and an ineffective lawyer are two reasons a Jesuit priest convicted of child molestation should get a new trial, according to an appeal filed on his behalf.

The appeal, filed June 14 for Rev. Donald J. McGuire, 76, claims his former attorney was ineffective and that a witness came forward after the trial with evidence that McGuire's accusers had lied.

Gerald Boyle of Milwaukee, who was McGuire's attorney during the February 2006 trial, failed to call a key witness, according to the appeal. The witness would have testified that the owner of a Fontana cottage where the priest reportedly molested two boys in the late 1960s wouldn't have let McGuire use the home without the owner being there, according to the motion filed by appellate attorney Robert Henak.

The appeal also claims that a man who knew the victims said he saw the two together multiple times after the boys graduated from Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., where McGuire once taught and allegedly continued molesting the boys.

The accusers, who are now in their 50s, said they didn't meet until a civil suit was filed against McGuire in Illinois, according to the motion.

"Such evidence makes it less likely that the complainants made their allegations independently of one another and more likely that they may have collaborated to make false allegations against McGuire," the motion reads.

Defending nearly 40-year-old charges also hampered McGuire's right to due process, according to the appeal.

"Rarely, at least outside of homicide cases, is a defendant called upon to account for his actions and defend against charges that allegedly occurred nearly four decades earlier," the appeal motion reads.

"The obstacles to preparing and presenting such defenses are enormous, as demonstrated in this case. The vast majority of witnesses who would have corroborated McGuire's defense and rebutted the complainants' assertions are dead."

A jury convicted McGuire on five counts of indecent behavior with a child. He was sentenced to seven years in prison but is free while his appeal is pending.

Walworth County District Attorney Phil Koss prosecuted the case, saying the statute of limitations hadn't expired because the priest never lived in Wisconsin after the crimes occurred.

Henak is challenging that finding, too, along with several other issues.

Judge James Carlson has 60 days to determine if he will hold a hearing on the appeal motion or deny the motion and let it be heard by an appeals court.


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