JEFFERSON — A former Fort Atkinson priest charged with molesting an altar boy during his tenure at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church appeared in Jefferson County Circuit Court Tuesday for a final status conference and motion hearing.
During the hearing, attorneys deliberated over the admissibility of one of the state’s expert witnesses and jury selection was scheduled for Monday.
The Rev. William A. Nolan, 66, has pleaded not guilty to six felony counts of sexual assault of a child under the age of 16 that reportedly occurred while he was serving at the Fort Atkinson parish from 2002-07 and beyond.
The alleged victim said the incidents of assault began in 2006 when he was 13 and continued for five years. He told authorities that the alleged contact occurred more than 100 times.
Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.
At Tuesday’s hearing, Judge William Hue said he had his back against the wall timewise after being asked to rule on what’s called a Daubert motion one week before trial is set to start.
A Daubert motion, which involves ruling on the opinionated testimony of an expert witness, typically happens months before trial, Hue said.
“So we have to go into some more detail on that. I guess we will, but again, I’m used to getting these kind of motions, in this kind of detail where we have very little time,” Hue said. “What’s of greater interest to me is whether or not this person qualifies as an expert witness, can testify as an expert witness, because in my opinion, an expert witness is needed to accomplish the task.”
The witness, who Assistant District Attorney Brookellen Teuber said counseled the alleged victim, was subpoenaed by the state to testify.
However, defense attorney Jonas Bednarek said he had serious questions about the witness’ qualifications.
“So you hit it on the head, judge, that I really had too many concerns at this juncture before we move to the next step,” Bednarek said. “The first concern being that this individual is not qualified as an expert in this area. She certainly doesn’t have the qualifications of others that I’ve seen. She’s done no individual research from what I can see on her resume. She’s done no real counseling experiences. She’s not written about it. She’s published no articles about it and she’s not taught about it.”
Teuber also said there was no way the Daubert hearing could occur this week because the potential witness lives out of state.
“The devil or issue, your honor, is this requires a separate hearing,” Teuber said. “The expert witness provided by the state is out of Minnesota, so she’s not nearby accessible.”
Due to the tight window of time before trial, Hue put the court into recess and sent Teuber and Bednarek to work out a solution
Their response after returning was to schedule the Daubert hearing on the admissibility of the expert witness next Monday immediately after jury selection ends.
At that time, Bednarek said, the state will give documentation about the witness’ expert qualifications and Hue will decide if he will allow the testimony.
After resolving the matter involving the expert witness, the process of jury selection was discussed.
A pool of 175 Jefferson County residents were sent a questionnaire to help pare down the list. At Monday’s jury selection, the remaining jury pool will be questioned by Bednarek and Teuber.
Bednarek said he anticipates both the defense and prosecution to have several stipulated strikes against jurors because of their answers on the questionnaires.
Hue said he expected some of the jurors to need individual voir dire and planned to send the jury pool out of the courtroom for that, if necessary.
Otherwise, the 12-person jury and three alternates will be chosen Monday morning.
After jury selection and the Daubert hearing, Nolan’s trial is scheduled to begin Monday with opening statements from Bednarek and Teuber.