Sunday, October 09, 2005


Former Winona seminarian in prison

Again, courtesy of YH:

Winona, Minnesota - A 1997 Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary graduate in Winona is in prison for violating probation on a 1998 conviction for sexually molesting a boy during a seminary retreat.

John Patrick Webster, who turns 40 on Thursday, was arrested April 5 in Bloomington on suspicion of exposing and grabbing himself in the men’s restroom at Macy’s in the Mall of America.

The offense, and Webster’s failure to report it to his probation agent, prompted a probation violation charge in Winona County District Court. Judge Lawrence T. Collins signed an order Friday sentencing Webster to a year in prison. Webster volunteered to enter the St. Cloud prison Sept. 20 and based on credit for time served and assuming good behavior, will be released March 13, court and prison records show.

A Macy’s customer told a store security guard of Webster’s behavior. The officer went into the bathroom and saw Webster inside a stall; the officer went into another stall two away from Webster, according to a Bloomington Police report.

The guard heard Webster leave his stall and enter the stall next to his, and heard Webster step onto the toilet seat. The guard looked up and saw Webster peering over the stall at him, the report said.

Webster, who lived in Minneapolis, left the store while being questioned. The store alerted police, who arrested Webster as he got into his car.

Webster pleaded guilty to a charge of interfering with privacy, a misdemeanor, Hennepin County court records show.

The Bloomington sex offense came eight years after a more serious sexual violation during Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary’s Quo Vadis Days, a three-day retreat for boys in grades 6-12 exploring the priesthood. Quo Vadis is Latin for “Where are you going?” The Diocese of Winona owns and operates the seminary next to Saint Mary’s University.

After Webster graduated from the seminary in 1997, he moved to Faribault but returned to Winona in June to attend Quo Vadis Days as a counselor. After lights out at 11 p.m., one of the 125 boys attending the retreat was almost asleep in his room when he felt someone next to him, according to court records.

According to the complaint, Webster sat on the boys bed and fondled his chest while talking to him; he also put his hand in the boy’s shorts.

The boy told his mother about the incident three days later, court documents say.

Webster told investigators he put his arms near the boy but not on top of him. Webster said he may have inadvertently touched the boy’s chest. He said he left when the boy appeared uncomfortable.

Webster pleaded not guilty to two felony sexual assault charges but a jury found him guilty and the court sentenced him to 10 years probation. The court later dismissed an appeal.

In 2003, Webster unsuccessfully sought discharge from probation.

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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