Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 20, 2004

Local man facing criminal sexual conduct charge

By Ryan Gueningsman and Lynda Jensen

A felony criminal sexual conduct charge has been filed in Ramsey County District Court against a Winsted man following an incident at a retreat that took place at St. Thomas University July 31.

Richard Paul Roque, 31, is facing a fourth degree charge for allegedly inappropriately touching a 15-year-old male youth’s chest, in addition to comments Roque made to the youth while acting as a chaperone for the Steubenville Conference at St. Thomas University, according to a criminal complaint.

Roque admitted he may have made comments to the youth, but that this was “just locker room humor,” according to the criminal complaint. He denied touching the youth’s chest.

Roque was working as a faith formation director at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Waconia, and was a St. Thomas doctoral student, according to the St. Thomas News Services.

He was suspended from his position at St. Joseph in Waconia when the investigation began, and terminated based on the complaint that was filed, Roque’s attorney, Paul Rogosheske of St. Paul, said.

Rogosheske stated that Roque is not guilty and feels that “we’ll just have to defend it (the charge) vigorously.”

“My client is devastated,” Rogosheske said. “The Catholic church presumes him guilty and he’s only been charged. A charge, in and of itself, is not guilt – it’s a charge. Hopefully, the community won’t scathe him and presume him guilty. Our constitution presumes him innocent until proven guilty.”

“This will be the shortest molestation case in the history of Minnesota if it stands up,” Rogosheske said. “I can’t believe that you can molest somebody as you’re walking into a conference, in the presence of about 10 to 15 other people, by grabbing somebody’s chest – I don’t know. There wasn’t any grabbing of the genital area – there wasn’t any of that.”

Rogosheske said Roque does not have any charges of this nature in his past.

Roque began studies in St. Thomas’ doctoral program in educational leadership in August, according to the university news service, when he also was hired by the university’s School of Education to do office work as a graduate assistant.

The university was unaware of the police investigation or allegations against Roque when it accepted him as a doctoral student and hired him as a graduate assistant.

Upon learning of the investigation, St. Thomas suspended Roque from his position as a graduate assistant pending further investigation and the outcome of the case, according to the news service.

Now that a charge has been filed, the university is reviewing his status as a doctoral student, according to the news service.

The Steubenville North Youth Conference, where the alleged sexual misconduct occurred, was one of 11 summer youth conferences sponsored throughout the country by the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, according to the news service.

The conference was co-sponsored locally by Partnership for Youth, of Bloomington. St. Thomas has been a conference site for the past four summers, but was not involved in planning or running the conference, or overseeing its participants, according to the news service.

The conference attracted about 1,700 youths and featured speakers, workshops, entertainment, and prayer.

Roque has a bachelor’s degree from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and received a master of science degree in technology management from St. Thomas in 2001, according to the news service.

Roque was previously an employee of Strategic Growth Initiative of Winsted, and had been a volunteer junior high basketball coach at Holy Trinity Schools.

Roque had an initial court appearance in Ramsey County Sept. 7 and was released on $25,000 bail Sept. 8, according to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.

He has an omnibus hearing set for Wednesday, Oct. 20 in St. Paul. The maximum penalty Roque could face if convicted is 10 years imprisonment, and/or a $20,000 fine.

“The allegation, on a scale of 1-10 of sexual abuse, and I’m not trying to demean sexual abuse – it’s a serious problem – but this is a .1,” Rogosheske said.

“If you take the allegation at face value,” he said, “and ask 20 people, I bet 10 of them would say ‘that’s not even abuse,’ and that it was just screwing around while going to a different seminar.”


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