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St. Paul ex-priest guilty of sex offense, theft

BY BETH SILVER - Pioneer Press
May 18, 2005

A former Roman Catholic priest from St. Paul was convicted Thursday of sexual misconduct and theft involving a former church employee and parishioner.

After a weeklong trial and a day of deliberations, a Hennepin County jury found John Joseph Bussmann, 51, guilty of two felony counts of theft, one count of sexual misconduct and one count of indecent exposure.

Bussmann also is charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct involving two other female parishioners. Those cases are scheduled to go to trial in July.

All of the incidents reportedly involve women Bussmann counseled at St. Walburga in Fletcher, Minn., and St. Marin in Rogers, Minn. The parishes later merged to form Mary Queen of Peace in Rogers.

Bussmann, who was ordained in 1980, was removed as a priest in March 2003.

A female church employee testified that in April 2001, Bussmann told her there was water in the church basement. When the woman said she got to the bottom of the stairs, Bussmann walked into the basement naked and blocked the stairs so she could not leave.

On another occasion, the woman testified that Bussmann bought her a gift. When she went to his office to thank him, Bussmann gave her a hug and then groped her, the woman said.

On a third occasion, the woman said she told Bussmann she wanted to donate
$2,500 of a family inheritance to St. Walburga Church. Bussmann suggested she give the money directly to him so he could surprise the church by buying a piano. Bussmann deposited the woman's check into his bank account but never bought the piano or transferred the money to the church, prosecutors said.

"This man exploited his position of trust to victimize his own parishioner," said Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 11 before Hennepin County District Judge Diana Eagon.

All incidents reportedly involve women counseled at church.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests