Waukesha County judge declares mistrial in trial of Father Charles Hanel

WAUKESHA COUNTY -- The Waukesha County judge overseeing the trial of Father Charles Hanel declared a mistrial on Friday, March 13.

Hanel is accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in December 2017 during reconciliation at Queen of the Apostles Church.

The defense said the victim's mom, who took the stand Thursday, is an undocumented immigrant, calling it an issue in the case -- and asked for the mistrial.

Criminal complaint details

According to the criminal complaint, the alleged crime happened on Dec. 17, 2017. The alleged victim, who was 13 years old at the time, told authorities that while attending Reconciliation at Queen of Apostles, Father Hanel had inappropriate contact with her in a confessional. The girl told investigators that "she feels Fr. Hanel looks at her in a different way than the other girls...making her feel uncomfortable."

The complaint indicates Father Hanel had been on a scheduled church sabbatical from January through April of this year. When hearing of the priest's return to the parish, the alleged victim expressed outward anxiety. She eventually told her parents what had happened in December. She said "Father Hanel was 'creepy' and 'weird'" -- and "I want to go to a different church."

Queen of Apostles Catholic Church, Pewaukee

The girl's parents immediately informed a visiting priest at the parish about the accusations. That priest reported the matter to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department and Waukesha County's Child Protective Services Unit.

According to the criminal complaint, Hanel, 61, was confronted on May 24 about the allegation of sexual contact with the 13-year-old girl. He denied having the contact -- and said "the only contact that ever occurs with children is when he lays his hands on their heads during the final prayer. Father Hanel indicated that he always performs the confession this way and that he never deviates from it." Hanel also stated to investigators, "If something like that would have happened, I would remember it, and I would not have done something like that accidentally, either. I just wouldn't do that. The sign of the cross is done a foot away from the person. There is no way that I would accidentally touch someone while I was doing that and  I would never do that."