Justices uphold ex-Jesuit priest's assault conviction

The Associated Press/July 25, 2010

Madison - The Wisconsin Supreme Court last week upheld the sexual abuse conviction of a once-prominent Jesuit priest who insisted he was unfairly prosecuted for acts dating to the 1960s.

In a 7-0 ruling, justices said they were satisfied that Donald McGuire received a fair trial and that "justice has not miscarried for any reason."

McGuire, a former spiritual adviser to Mother Teresa who commanded a worldwide following as a gifted preacher and philosopher, is considered one of the most influential figures convicted in the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal. Advocates for childhood victims of clergy sex abuse praised the court's ruling.

Peter Isely, Midwest director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said a ruling in McGuire's favor could have jeopardized the convictions of 20 clergy members who have been found guilty of decades-old sexual abuse in Wisconsin.

"That is an immediate victory for children and families in Wisconsin," he said.

McGuire's attorney Robert Henak said the ruling was unfair to his client and set a bad precedent. He said he would consider asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.

"If any one of us faced an allegation that was 35 to 40 years old ... I don't think any of us could have a fair trial," he said. "Unfortunately, for all of us, the Supreme Court disagrees."

McGuire was convicted in 2006 on five counts of indecent behavior with a child after a jury trial.

McGuire said his prosecution more than 35 years after the alleged crimes violated his constitutional right to a fair trial.

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