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Brown County DA: Reports made to clergy abuse inquiry have potential to be prosecuted

Published: Aug. 4, 2021 at 11:58 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 4, 2021 at 6:06 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Reports to a newly-formed statewide clergy and faith leader abuse inquiry have the potential to be prosecuted, according to Brown County District Attorney David Lasee.

Lasee joined Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul for a news conference in Green Bay. Kaul is traveling the state Wednesday to provide updates on the inquiry and reassuring people that they are still receiving reports and they have a way to connect victims with support.

Lasee could not describe individual cases, but said there are allegations from the 1980s. He says some of the factors could allow them to extend the statute of limitations. Those factors include the moving of priests or clergy and if abuse happened out of state.

“There are some older allegations from the 1980s and potentially prosecutable based on the extension of the statute of limitations that exists,” Lasee said.

HOW TO REPORT CLERGY AND FAITH LEADER ABUSE

Lasee said two reports have the potential for prosecution in Brown County so far.

“We have had a couple of new reports that have come forward of potentially prosecutable cases here in Brown County as a result of this initiative,” Lasee says. “I would encourage those who have information of past abuse, even if it is beyond the statute of limitations, to come forward, share that information, either with the attorney general’s office or if it’s a potentially prosecutable case to our office directly or law enforcement.”

Kaul says the statewide inquiry has received more than 100 reports since it was formed in April. They’ve received reports from people who have reported abuse in the past, and people who are reporting it for the first time.

The reporters are from multiple faiths. In some cases, they don’t relate to one single institution.

Kaul says there are three goals: connecting survivors with a safe, trusted place to report; providing a measure of accountability and identifying cases that have not been previously identified and referring them to prosecutors; and preventing the abuse from happening again.

Reports are reviewed by multi-disciplinary teams of prosecutors, investigators and victim services specialists. They determine the appropriate follow up.

“These reports are a critical aspect of this review. It’s the central way we have right now of gathering information about this topic. If people have reported before, we still encourage them to report again so we have a complete as picture as possible and because we don’t know yet what kind of information we’re going to get as this goes forward,” Kaul says.

Holli Fischer of Family Services of Northeast Wisconsin says more than 90 percent of child sex assault perpetrators are known to the victim as the suspect is in a position of trust.

“We want our community to know the sexual assault center is available for any victims who might still be feeling the impact of that abuse, regardless if it is years later, we are still here for you as much as we are here for folks who have recently experienced this type of trauma,” says Fischer.

More information on local Sexual Assault Centers: https://www.familyservicesnew.org/sexual-assault-center/

Action 2 News did reach out to the Diocese of Green Bay, but has not heard back as of Wednesday night.

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