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Catholic Confessions: A history of clergy abuse in North Dakota Part 1

Published: Apr. 5, 2021 at 7:35 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - In January, the Attorney General’s office released the results of an 18-month long investigation into allegations of child sexual abuse by members of the North Dakota Catholic Dioceses.

This investigation was prompted after the Bismarck and Fargo Dioceses released a list of 53 individuals with allegations of child sexual abuse in 2019.

Of the 53 named individuals, all but two had died by the time the investigation commenced.

The two priests still living were Norman Dukart of Dickinson, and John Owens, who had moved to Minnesota but died in October 2020 while the investigation was ongoing.

Through the course of the investigation, the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office identified a third perpetrator not under the jurisdiction of the Dioceses—Odo Muggli, a priest at Assumption Abbey in Richardton.

Allegations against Norman Dukart and Odo Muggli date back to the 1970s. Ultimately, the Attorney General’s office ruled that the statute of limitations had run out on all allegations against Muggli and Dukart, so they could not be charged.

“I think that’s unfortunate, I wish that we had had the opportunity to bring them in to court where they could face the charges and respond accordingly. So, it’s disappointing that that’s what happened,” said Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

Odo Muggli still lives at Assumption Abbey in Richardton, but was unavailable for comment on the case.

Abbot Daniel Maloney, head of Assumption Abbey, has known and worked with Muggli for many years.

When asked about whether he thinks Muggli is capable of the things mentioned in the Attorney General’s report, Maloney said “possibly, yes.”

Abbot Maloney said he feels many of the past allegations stem from a lack of education in members of the clergy.

“Some things that might be harmless in ordinary family life might present a problem when you’re dealing with outside people,” said Maloney.

The report from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation states that Assumption Abbey was notified of sexual abuse allegations against Odo Muggli in 1991. Maloney said Muggli has been on a “safety plan” since then, meaning he has not been involved in ministry, and works in the business office for Assumption Abbey.

Your News Leader was able to confirm through the Attorney General’s office and neighbors that Norman Dukart still lives at the Dickinson address listed in the BCI report.

We attempted to get a comment on the case from Dukart, but he did not answer.

Dukart served under the Bismarck Diocese. Bishop David Kagan said even though Dukart could not be charged, he feels the results of the investigation are sufficient.

“We addressed the issues. That’s something for the state to try and reconcile,” said Kagan.

Kagan said he supports the statute of limitations in cases like these.

“We regret any kind of misconduct imposed on any child, but the statute of limitations does serve a purpose that as time goes on, people’s memories and recollections aren’t as accurate,” Kagan said.

During the 2019 legislative session, North Dakota lawmakers extended the statute of limitations for cases of sexual abuse, but current law and a Supreme Court ruling prevent that from being applied retroactively.

Since the Attorney General’s office was unable to charge any of the priests, they have no grounds to be on a registered sex offender list.

“Because they’re based on convictions, not just on anything else, they have to be convicted in a court of law,” said Attorney General Stenehjem.

Which allows Dukart to live just down the street Dickinson Head Start, a preschool in town.

In North Dakota, a high risk sex offender may not reside within 500 feet of a school.

Google maps shows door to door, Dukart’s home and Early Head Start are about .1 mile, or 528 feet, away from each other. However, the property lines are much closer, with an alleyway connecting the two.

We contacted Dickinson Head Start to see if our findings raised concern for the school, and they refused to comment.

On Tuesday, we’ll share the story of a survivor of clergy abuse.

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