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McGuire Decision


MADISON - This  morning, the Wisconsin Supreme Court affirmed Donald J. McGuire's 2006 Walworth County convictions on 5 counts of indecent behavior with a child.  McGuire, a former Jesuit priest, committed the acts between 1966 and 1968.  He raised multiple postconviction challenges to his convictions, most of them related to the 36-year passage of time between the alleged acts and the filing of criminal charges.  The state's highest court rejected all of McGuire's claims and affirmed his convictions. 


Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, was pleased with the decision.  "I'm pleased that McGuire will continue to pay for his betrayal of his victims' trust," said Van Hollen.  "Make no mistake my office will fight to give Wisconsin's prosecutors the tools they need to take down those who sexually maltreat children.  Those crimes don't simply fade away with the passage of time.  We will continue to bring such offenders to justice." 


McGuire, who taught parochial school in suburban Chicago, committed multiple sexual acts against young boys at a private residence in Fontana, Wisconsin during the late 1960's.  One of McGuire's victims reported the assaults to school staff in 1970.  The staff did not contact police.  It was not until 2003 that the victim made the assaults public, and not until 2005 that state prosecutors charged McGuire with criminal offenses stemming from those acts. 


Under controlling Wisconsin law, prosecution for a felony must begin no later than 6 years after the felony was allegedly committed. In computing that time limit, courts must exclude the time during which the accused was not publicly a resident within the state.  McGuire's Illinois residency brought the charges within the 6-year time frame.  McGuire challenged the constitutionality of the law as applied to him on multiple grounds.  The Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected those challenges.  From the Court's decision: 


In sum, Wis. Stat. 939.74(3) is constitutional as applied to the facts of this case. It does not violate the Privileges and Immunities, Due Process, or Equal Protection provisions of the United States Constitution. Section 939.74(3) does not burden a fundamental right, and it is rationally related to the legitimate governmental interests of detecting crimes and apprehending criminals. 


We also conclude that the delay in filing charges did not deprive McGuire of his due process rights. Because McGuire concedes that he cannot demonstrate an improper motive or purpose on the part of the state, he has failed to allege a necessary prerequisite for dismissal based on pre-indictment delay. 


In separate arguments, McGuire also claimed he was entitled to a new trial in the interest of justice because of the charging delay, and because his trial attorney, Gerald Boyle, failed to call certain witnesses in McGuire's defense.  Again, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected McGuire's claims.  The Court held that McGuire failed to demonstrate the loss of any definitive, admissible evidence.  The Court also held that Boyle's tactical decisions at McGuire's trial were professionally reasonable. 


Records from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections indicate that Donald J. McGuire is currently under active community supervision for the offenses of conviction, and is in compliance with Wisconsin's Sex Offender Registry program.  Records from the Federal Bureau of Prisons also indicate that McGuire is currently incarcerated at The United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners (MCFP) in Springfield, Missouri, pursuant to other legal action. 


The Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision in State of Wisconsin v. Donald J. McGuire, No. 2007AP2711-CR, appears at the Court's website:


The Walworth County District Attorney's Office represented the State of Wisconsin in Walworth County Circuit Court.  Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. O'Brien represented the State in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.