David Szatkowski

A criminal charge accuses a Wisconsin priest of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl earlier this week while he was in La Crosse for a canon law conference.

The Rev. David Szatkowski, 37, of Franklin, Wis., grabbed the teen's breast outside the downtown Radisson late Monday or early Tuesday, according to the complaint filed today in La Crosse County Circuit Court.

She told police a drunken man approached her group of friends and put his arms around her shoulders before groping her, the complaint states. One of her friends snapped a picture of the man on a cell phone.

Two witnesses described the man, who said he was a lawyer, as being "very touchy" before he grabbed the teen when she tried to give him a high five, the complaint states. He retreated to the hotel when the girls confronted him.

A staff member told police a group of people attending a canon law conference for canonists and civil attorneys at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe were staying in the hotel. The two-day conference is hosted by Cardinal Raymond Burke and is not associated with the Diocese of La Crosse.

Szatkowski identified himself in the cell phone picture after investigators found him at the conference, according to the complaint.

He told investigators he was staying at the Radisson and had several drinks during the evening. He remembered talking to a group of students for about an hour outside the hotel but denied assaulting the teen, according to the complaint. He refused more questions without an attorney.

Szatkowski appeared in court Wednesday, where prosecutors charged him with second-degree sexual assault of a child under 16 years of age.

See Thursday's Tribune or www.lacrossetribune.com for more on this story.

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