JEFFERSON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin jury on Friday acquitted a retired Catholic priest on charges alleging that he had sexually assaulted an altar boy over several years, starting in 2006.
The Jefferson County jury found William Nolan, 66, not guilty of five counts of sexual assault following a weeklong trial.
The 26-year-old accuser, who lives in California, alleged that Nolan had sexual contact with him as many as 100 times, starting in 2006 when he was a middle school student at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Fort Atkinson, which is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Milwaukee. Nolan was the parish priest there. The accuser said the abuse continued into his high school years.
Nolan testified that he did not have any physical contact with the boy other than a friendly hug one time, WKOW-TV reported. He said that when he heard of the allegations from police in 2018, he was “mad, angry because it didn’t happen.”
The accuser testified that he had sexual contact with Nolan in his church office, behind the church altar, at his home and during a school cross-country team practice.
Nolan testified that the boy could not have gone to his office undetected by staff and others.
Assistant Jefferson County District Attorney Brook Teuber said the accuser had spoken about the alleged crimes with loved ones for years before he told police. She said Nolan’s denials at trial were in stark contrast with his claims of failed memory when he was questioned by police detectives last year.
Teuber said that when Nolan was questioned by police, he said he couldn’t recall if he had kissed his accuser.
Nolan’s attorney, Jonas Bednarek, said key parts of the accuser’s claims could not be corroborated, including the logistics of him leaving a school cross-country practice for an alleged meeting with the priest.
“This case is riddled with reasonable doubt,” Bednarek said during closing arguments.