JEFFERSON — One day after the accuser testified in a tense, long day in Jefferson County Circuit Court, the defense and prosecution spent the third day of the Rev. William A. Nolan’s molestation trial trying to either poke holes in or strengthen the victim’s testimony.
The former Fort Atkinson priest, 66, has been charged with six counts of sexual abuse of a child under 16. If convicted, each count carries a maximum sentence of 40 years.
The prosecution ended its case with the testimony of three witnesses Wednesday morning.
The first to testify was Mary Haupt, a former student counselor at the accuser’s college, whom the alleged victim saw for one semester in his senior year.
Haupt said the alleged victim came to her because he said he was having issues being “authentic” with himself.
“He wanted to learn what it would be like to be more honest with himself,” Haupt said.
Haupt testified that in her first counseling session with the man, he told her he’d been abused by a priest. She said it came up in subsequent sessions, but it was not the focus.
“At that time, he had an idea something wasn’t right,” Haupt said. “He said he was unlovable and a people pleaser.”
Defense attorney Jonas Bednarek jumped at the suggestion that the victim hadn’t been “authentic” or honest in his past. Bednarek highlighted notes from Haupt’s sessions with the alleged victim that said he was a compulsive liar, catfishing people online, having money issues and plagiarizing.
“He also, to be fair, had sort of a laundry list of other issues that he had going on in his life that he felt he wanted to discuss with you,” Bednarek said to the counselor.
After Haupt, the victim’s twin brother testified and matched much of what his twin had said the day before.
One piece of the brother’s testimony seemed largely to confirm a major part of the state’s case. On Tuesday, the accuser testified that he and Nolan had touched each other under a blanket on a bus while traveling back home from a St. Joseph’s Catholic Church youth group ski trip.
Today, the accuser’s brother testified that he remembers the victim sitting with Nolan on that trip.
“I remember thinking ‘that sucks he has to sit with the adult,’” the brother said.
The brother also mentioned the blanket, saying that word of the two being under the blanket spread around the bus — as gossip tends to do in a bus full of pre-teens.
Following the brother, Todd Tesch took the stand. Tesch has been the St. Joseph’s cross country, girls’ basketball and track coach, as well as athletic director at the school.
Tesch was the cross country coach during the victim’s eighth-grade year — the first year St. Joseph’s had a cross country team.
The alleged victim, who Tesch said was the team’s fastest runner, had said Tuesday he and Nolan had a sexual encounter in the woods of Dorothy Carnes County Park during a cross country practice.
Tesch confirmed that Nolan occasionally would come to practices and run on the trail with the team. Bednarek tried to show there would have been so much foot traffic on the trail from team members, other parents and members of the public that it would’ have been impossible for the victim and Nolan to sneak away.
However, Tesch said, there were “enough” places to get out of sight in the woods of Dorothy Carnes County Park.
After Tesch’s testimony, Jefferson County Assistant District Attorney Brookellen Teuber rested her case. Bednarek then began his meticulous effort to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.
Bednarek began with Heidi Kosak, who was the music and religion teacher at St. Joseph’s Catholic School while the victim attended there.
Entering Kosak’s classroom required the use of the door that separates the church and school, which has become an important piece of the case. The victim said he was able to get back and forth through the door to meet with Nolan at various times throughout the day.
However, various St. Joseph’s employees have said that the door always would have been locked from the school side.
“The doors are supposed to be kept locked,” Kosak testified.
Bednarek also called to the stand Rhona Quinn, a St. Joseph’s parishioner who helped with the construction and design of the church, school and Nolan’s home on the city’s south side along Endl Boulevard.
Quinn testified about the specifics of Nolan’s duplex residence and the adjacent unit. She said the glass doors to Nolan’s patio were very close to the neighbor’s door.
“I remember thinking there was not a lot of privacy for Father Nolan,” Quinn said.
But Teuber said Quinn was “only in (Nolan’s) home a handful of times,” and couldn’t have known if he put up curtains or changed the decorations to make his home more private.
The defense followed Quinn with Mary Lois Fritz, who spent a number of years as St. Joseph’s Catholic Church’s confirmation director and assisted with the youth group.
Fritz was on the Colorado trip during which the victim said he and Nolan had an encounter.
Bednarek’s questioning began with Facebook messages the alleged victim had sent Fritz in early May 2018.
The man had been trying to get in contact with Nolan with the approval of the Fort Atkinson Police Department. To get Nolan’s contact information, he messaged Fritz and she gave him Nolan’s email.
After the exchange between Fritz and the victim, she texted Nolan that the victim reached out to her about getting in contact because she likes when former students get in touch.
“It’s exciting when people you haven’t seen in a while reach out,” Fritz said. “We spend so much time with those kids.”
When Fritz told Nolan that the accuser had reached out to her, she told Nolan the accuser had come out as gay.
“Bill seemed surprised (the victim) was gay,” Fritz testified.
Bednarek then spent a significant amount of time asking Fritz about the youth group ski trip in January of 2006. Fritz said she was on that trip and testified that Nolan sat alone near the front both there and back.
However, Teuber pointed out that that the ski trip on which the alleged victim said the encounter on the bus happened was in 2007. Teuber said January 2006 was before the very first encounter in February 2006.
Where Bednarek had the most success with Fritz’s testimony was about the youth group retreat to Colorado that Nolan accompanied. The alleged victim said he and Nolan performed oral sex on each other during that trip.
Fritz said it would have been almost impossible for a sexual encounter to happen on that trip because the chaperones locked down on security.
“There was no contact one -on-one between Bill and (the victim),” Fritz said. “We had two security guards ... that trip was a well-oiled machine.”
Bednarek also called Michael Smits, the director of Gundersen Funeral Homes in Madison. Smits said he has worked professionally with Nolan for decades and he oversaw the funeral for Nolan’s father in 2009.
Smits said Nolan’s father’s funeral planning occurred on Jan. 17, 2009, which would have been the date of that year’s ski trip — meaning Nolan could not have been on that trip.
However, as Teuber had pointed out earlier, the ski trip in question in this case happened in 2007.
Former St. Joseph’s School principal Leonard Bannon testified about the procedure for pulling a student out of class to be an altar server during a weekday funeral Mass.
Tyler Zaspel, a 24-year-old friend of the accuser testified next, talking about the first time the victim told him about his relationship with Nolan.
Zaspel said the alleged victim told him the first time when it slipped out accidentally around other friends from where the victim now lives.
“(The victim) said ‘you’re from Fort; I don’t want this getting out,’” Zaspel testified.
To conclude the day, Alyssa Crain of the Wisconsin Department of Justice Digital Forensics Unit took the stand. Crain had performed an analysis for the Fort Atkinson Police Department on the victim’s and Nolan’s technology to find evidence of contact between the two.
She testified that she did not find anything useful for the police department’s investigation.
The trial was scheduled to continue Thursday at 9 a.m.