Jury trial continues for Pewaukee priest accused of inappropriately touching teen
MILWAUKEE, WI (CBS 58) – The jury trial continued Tuesday, March 10, for a Pewaukee priest accused of inappropriately touching a 13-year-old girl during confession.
Father Charles Hanel faces one count sexual assault of a child under the age of 16.
On Tuesday, jurors heard from a social worker who conducted the incident interview, the victim, who's now 15, and the victim’s mother.
The jury was shown a recording of the incident interview conducted by a social worker.
The jury had a chance to observe the teen's body language as well as the questions and responses during the interview.
Once on the stand, the teen was asked to show the courtroom what allegedly happened in the confessional.
The teen told the courtroom Father Hanel was comforting her at first after she got emotional while confessing her sins.
“He grabbed my shoulder and was like ‘it’ll be ok,'" the teen gestured while on the stand. “And then he grabbed me, [motioning to her chest] and then he held it down for a second or two, and then he rested his hand on my leg,” explained the teen.
According to the criminal complaint, the teen, then 13, told police Father Hanel had inappropriate contact with her in a confessional during reconciliation at Queen of Apostles Catholic Church.
Shortly after, Father Hanel left for a sabbatical for several months.
After hearing of his return to the parish, the teen alleges her anxiety caused her to tell her parents.
Father Hanel has denied having such contact.
“I felt very uncomfortable,” said the victim to the courtroom. “I felt like a toy that he – I felt very uncomfortable.”
The victim told the courtroom she and her family were very involved with the church. She and her siblings served as altar servers and readers, while her parents taught catechism.
The victim told the courtroom that since the incident has come to light, she and her family are no longer active in the Catholic Church and are now members of a Mormon Church.
There were several family members and even parishioners of Queen of Apostles who were present for support.
The trial is scheduled to last through the end of the week.
If convicted, Father Hanel could face up to 40 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.