McCarrick found incompetent to stand trial in Wisconsin, case suspended — By: Catholic News Agency

Theodore McCarrick before his laicization. / Credit: Copyright

CNA Staff, Jan 10, 2024 / 17:05 pm (CNA).

The criminal sexual assault case against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick in Wisconsin has been suspended after a psychologist hired by the court found that the former prelate is not competent to stand trial.

The misdemeanor sexual assault charges relate to an incident that allegedly occurred in April 1977 near a house by Geneva Lake. The complaint alleges that McCarrick and “another adult male” sexually assaulted then-18-year-old James Grein, the same man who brought a complaint against the former cardinal in Massachusetts.

Grein, 65, told CNA in December that the other adult male who he alleges assaulted him was Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the late archbishop of Chicago who died in 1996.

The suspension practically ends the last standing criminal case against 93-year-old McCarrick, who once held offices at the highest levels of the Catholic Church and was removed from the clerical state in 2019 following several accusations of sexual abuse of minors and seminarians.

The results of the psychological report on McCarrick were originally filed with the court in November but were not yet available to the public. The Walworth County District Attorney’s office said at the time that it would not contest the report.

Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld told CNA in September that if a defendant is found incompetent to stand trial, the case is required to be suspended indefinitely. Only if there is a later finding that the person is competent, then the case could resume, he said.

The findings of incompetence in the Wisconsin case echo the results of psychological exams conducted on McCarrick when he was being prosecuted in Massachusetts for child sexual abuse, a case that was dismissed on Aug. 30 last year.

The Massachusetts dismissal was based on two separate psychological evaluations, one done in December 2022 for McCarrick’s defense team and the other in June 2023 conducted by Kerry Nelligan, the psychologist hired by the prosecution. 

Both assessments concluded that the disgraced former archbishop of Washington, D.C., is too cognitively impaired to actively participate in his defense.

Speaking to CNA in September, Wiedenfeld said that McCarrick’s defense team raised the issue of competency in court proceedings, citing the two psychological evaluations from the Massachusetts case. 

McCarrick’s defense asked the court to appoint Nelligan as the examiner because they said it would be “more efficient,” Wiedenfeld said. 

The state objected to Nelligan’s appointment because “the more normal practice” would be to allow Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services to choose the evaluator, he added.

The court can choose its own examiner and that sometimes happens in cases where a psychologist “has a history in evaluating a person,” he said.

“So it definitely happens. But it’s not the normal procedure,” he added.

Wiedenfeld was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday. Jerome Buting, McCarrick’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment. 

Court records say that a “review hearing” is scheduled for Dec. 27, 2024, at 3 p.m. 

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