Crime

Former Catholic diocese assistant superintendent faces sexual assault charges

Former Catholic diocese assistant...

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - A former assistant superintendent for schools at the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse is facing sexual assault charges, including a charge of sex with a child 16 or older, in Marathon County.

Steven Smolek, 59, of La Crosse, is accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy in early 2015 in Marathon County.

According to a criminal complaint, La Crosse police began an investigation into Smolek and questioned him last November after receiving a tip he was attempting to entice children.

"We were the launching point for the investigation into Mr. Smolek,” Captain Jason Melby of the La Crosse Police Department said.

Melby said the La Crosse Police Department received word that led them to believe Steven Smolek was using a computer in the La Crosse area to entice children.

According to La Crosse police reports, a social app called Skout generated a tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that made its way to the La Crosse Police Department.

The report said a Skout user “posed as 12-year-old child. “(He) ended up having conversations on phone with Mr. Smolek,” Melby said. “Part of the investigation was that the IP address came back through server at the diocese."

Smolek served as the Diocese of La Crosse assistant superintendent from August 2015 to November 23, 2016.

The Diocese of La Crosse -- which spans from parts of Western to Northern Wisconsin, La Crosse included -- oversees 66 schools.

A Marathon County criminal complaint indicates Smolek told La Crosse investigators on November 21, 2016, that he had sexual contact with an underage male.

"During the course of our investigation, we determined he did in fact have contact with a minor in Marathon County, which led to us providing the information to Marathon County,” Melby said.

In April, charges were filed in Marathon County in connection with the La Crosse investigation.

According to the criminal complaint, the 16-year-old boy says he and Smolek had oral sex with each other.

Smolek told investigators he met the minor on the app Skout.

The complaint said Smolek picked the boy up at an elementary school in Plover, Wisconsin, and took the boy back to his home in Mosinee where the assault allegedly took place.

The underage boy told investigators the sex was consensual.

The report stated that when asked by investigators what he'd like to see happen to Smolek, the boy said, "Steven should go to jail."

The Diocese of La Crosse said they received no complaints about Smolek during his employment.

A statement reads in part, "We have been informed by law enforcement that there is no connection between Mr. Smolek's charges and his employment and conduct with the Diocese of La Crosse or its schools."

"At this point in time, the investigation has not revealed any victims in the La Crosse area,” Melby said.

Smolek is facing three felony charges and one misdemeanor. He's currently out on a $10,000 signature bond and cannot have contact with any minors.


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