A former Janesville priest took advantage of an altar boy’s sexual and religious insecurities before sexually assaulting him in Fort Atkinson, a prosecutor told a Jefferson County jury Monday.
The defense attorney responded that the accuser’s statements to police changed and were proven wrong often. The boy’s statements included inconsistencies in the dates and locations of the assaults, defense attorney Jonas Bednarek told the jury.
The Rev. William A. Nolan, 66, is charged with six felony counts of sexual assault of a child under the age of 16. The assaults reportedly began in February 2006.
If convicted, Nolan faces a maximum sentence of 40 years for each count.
A panel of 12 jurors and three alternates picked Monday heard two interpretations of the case in opening statements from opposing attorneys.
Assistant District Attorney Brookellen Teuber told the jury Nolan took advantage of the accuser’s sexual insecurities compounded by his Catholic faith.
“Because if you’re at a Catholic school as a strong practicing Catholic, well, then homosexuality is a sin,” Teuber said.
“Enter Father Bill Nolan, the charming, charismatic, good-looking, friendly, affectionate, warm-hearted Catholic priest that came to his school,” Teuber said.
Teuber said the abuse began after the accuser served at a funeral Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Fort Atkinson. She said Nolan offered the accuser a ride home, and the two ended up in Nolan’s home.
“This case is not about an unwilling victim doing things he didn’t want to do, but he was a victim nonetheless. Because (the accuser) was a child, and a child cannot consent to sex with an adult,” Teuber told the jury.
Bednarek said witnesses will testify to dispute the accuser’s accounts.
“You will not hear from one witness who heard or saw anything,” Bednarek said.
Bednarek also said an employee from the Wisconsin Department of Justice analyzed both the accuser’s and Nolan’s phones and computers and couldn’t find one message or email between the two.
When the accuser was asked by investigators to describe Nolan’s physical features, he did not mention a birthmark on Nolan’s groin, Bednarek said.
“He has a big old birthmark right there. Never mentioned. You know why? He didn’t know because he never saw it,” Bednarek said.
Bednarek said there’s another aspect to Nolan’s body that he wouldn’t share until the accuser testifies later this week.
“It’s going to be a hard week,” Bednarek said. “But it’s got to get done to show the stories (the accuser) is making up about Bill Nolan.”
The trial is scheduled to continue through Friday.