Media Center

WI Court Of Appeals Upholds Conviction Of Illinois Priest

 

MADISON -  The court of appeals today affirmed the Walworth County conviction of former Jesuit priest Donald J. McGuire for five counts of taking indecent liberties with two minor victims at a cabin in Fontana, Wisconsin in 1967 and 1968. The court rejected McGuire's claims that suspension of the statute of limitations for the many years he was not publicly a resident of Wisconsin violated his rights to Due Process, Equal Protection or under the Privileges and Immunities Clauses of the United States Constitution. The court rejected McGuire's claim that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to interview and call several witnesses to testify on his behalf. The court then rejected McGuire's claim that the trial court improperly allowed the state to introduce evidence of similar sexual conduct between McGuire and the two victims in the state of Illinois both before and after the incidents in Fontana. The court also rejected McGuire's claim that the trial court improperly allowed the state to put on rebuttal witnesses to counter certain defense testimony at trial. Finally, the court ruled that McGuire should not receive a new trial in the interest of justice.

 

“This prosecution and today's court of appeals decision lets victims who were sexually abused while children a long time ago know that it might be possible for the state to proceed with criminal prosecution,”  stated Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office handled the appeal. 

 

“Depending on the facts of each case, coming forward decades later is not necessarily futile.”

 

Then a Jesuit priest, McGuire taught at Loyola Academy High School in Chicago at the time of these offenses, and was a highly regarded scholar and mentor who once advised Mother Teresa. He befriended two high school students in the late 1960s, Victor and Sean. In 1967 and 1968, he took both boys on separate occasions to a cabin in Fontana owned by Victor's uncle where sexual activity occurred.  As the two (now middle-aged) victims testified at trial, the conduct in Fontana was similar to sexual activity McGuire engaged in while they were practically living in his room as high school students at Loyola Academy both before and after the Fontana incidents.

 

Victor and Sean did not report the Wisconsin incidents until 2003 at which time the Walworth County prosecution began. (Sean had reported the sexual abuse of himself to Loyola Academy administrators in 1969 or 1970.  While a meeting was held, nothing came of it other than that Sean transferred to another school). 

 

A Walworth County jury found McGuire guilty as charged of the five indecent liberties offense and McGuire was sentenced in July, 2006 to seven years in prison followed by twenty years of probation. The trial court denied postconviction relief and McGuire appealed. His prison sentence was stayed by the trial court pending appeal.

 

McGuire is serving lengthy federal sentences in Chicago after being found guilty by a jury in October, 2008 of engaging in sexual activity with other boys in Minnesota, Switzerland and Austria beginning in the late 1990s and ending in 2002. He is also facing charges in Arizona.

 

The decision can be found at: http://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=36478.

 

The case was prosecuted by Walworth County District Attorney Phillip Koss. The appeal was handled by Assistant Attorney General Daniel O'Brien