The Very Long Case of Father Grassi
There were eight months of proceedings and a total of seven years since the scandal erupted regarding the abuse of minors at the Foundation. The sentencing will be June 12.
By Carlos Rodríguez
May 10, 2009
[Translated into English by BishopAccountability.org. Click below to see original article in Spanish.]
“This is the longest trial in the judicial history of Morón. I do not think the ruling will set an example for other, similar cases, but I do think that the offense committed by the accused has been proved,” said the public prosecutor, Alejandro Varela, who requested 30 years in prison for the priest Julio Cesar Grassi for sexual abuse and corruption of minors against three boys who were under his tutelage, estimating that the verdict in this long process will be made on June 12. Sergio Piris, one of three plaintiff lawyers, who asked separately for 20, 25 and 37 years of prison for Grassi, said instead that the sentence “must be a critical turning point and I think it will be for the good. Society has to change and start believing these boys, who are completely vulnerable, who don’t have the opportunities that many of us have, and who were abused in the institution that should’ve cared for them.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Cavo, one of Grassi’s three lawyers, said his client “should be acquitted because it was proven that the allegations were false.” He was undaunted by the requests for punishment: “Just yesterday, four policemen faced with life in prison were acquitted,” he said in reference to the homicide of the young Gaston Duffau, which went unpunished.
This week ended the prosecution’s allegations and complaints, and Grassi’s defense. All that’s left are the counter-responses and the final words of the accused. If the judgment comes to pass on June 12, it’ll mark nine months and twenty three days since the start of the trial, and seven years since the investigation was publicly televised by the program Telenoche Investiga.
The plaintiffs, “Ezequiel,” “Gabriel” and “Luis,” who are presently 19, 24 and 25 years of age, were barely 9, 13 and 17 when they were subject to the 17 counts of abuse brought forth in the trial. Interviewed in his office by Página 12, the prosecutor Alejandro Varela maintained that Grassi’s defense did not surprise him “aside from the aggression against one of the victims,” the boy known as “Gabriel,”who witnessed the defense’s final plea laced with words directed at him such as “liar, confabulator, thief, vagrant,” although the psychological examinations concluded that none of the boys lied.
“The defense regurgitated the argument that a handful of judicial functionaries conspired, or rather united, because they no longer use the term conspiracy, and that there were journalist ‘operators,’ in this case the investigative reporter Miriam Lewin. They repeated this line of defense, I believe, in an attempt to invalidate the charges,” said Varela.
After admitting that the crime of sex abuse is difficult to prove, the prosecutor asserted that “he constructed the evidence of abuse using testimonies from the victims, accounts from others who spoke about the management and day-to-day of the Happy Children Foundation, where the abuses occurred, and the psychological and psychiatric expert evaluations of the accused and of the victims.”
In addition to “other documented evidence was used in the case that substantiates the victims’ testimonies, falsifies the assertions of the accused, and validates the evaluations of the experts,” who determined that Grassi’s personality had attributes of “sexual delinquency.” Regarding these expert examinations, Varela explained that they have the value of an “in-depth analysis of the accused,” that was corroborated, in his opinion, over the course of the more than eight months of the trial. “It’s confirmed by his expressionless face, by his distant attitude, and when he’s said to various news outlets that he sees the trial as though he were a spectator. All this confirms the expert evaluation of El Calafate, the sole evaluation that he agreed to submit himself to.”
Varela went on to say that “the defense claimed that the experts were biased, but during the trial it was proven that this wasn’t true, and they also said that the experts based their analysis on a single test, when in actuality seven psychological tests were done.”
“I believe that it was difficult for the defense to repudiate the expert evaluations and so they opted for the tack of accusing the experts of ‘playing judge’ out of ‘animosity’ toward the accused, a line of defense they repeated over and over.”
Varela said that, during the trial, other facts were discovered, such as “the hidden cameras that Grassi’s collaborators used to take video footage of the boys at the Foundation, and the stalking of witnesses and victims to know where they lived, which we learned from a witness who was, and continues to be, a very close confidant of the accused.” The hidden cameras ultimately were not presented as evidence because they “were detrimental” to the defense and also weren’t personally seen by the district attorney.
This newspaper [Página 12] was able to determine that there was footage from the Foundation of two boys, neither of whom was one of the victims, although both resembled one of the trial’s witnesses. “Ezequiel” was forced to say to the cameras that a blonde woman, presumably in allusion to the reporter Lewin, had offered him money to denounce Father Grassi. This was revealed by Claudio Amaya, a close collaborator of Father Grassi at the Foundation.
Additional facts surfaced during the trial that, although anecdotal, are quite serious, because they demonstrate the unusual treatment that Grassi gave to the boys under his care. One boy, who testified at the trial and who is close friend of Grassi, admitted that he and Grassi traveled together to Egypt and dined on the banks of the Nile River.
A priest, Elvio Mettone, who was another witness, spoke of the nocturnal outings that Grassi had with other boys who were under his care, when he and Grassi worked together at the boarding house, La Casita, in Paso del Rey. Grassi was expelled from that house, on request of Mettone.
The attorney Juan Pablo Gallego, who represents the Committee for the Defense of Children’s Rights and also supports the victims’ case, considered that the trial has arrived at judgment day “in the best of all possible scenarios,” in virtue of “the evidence that was presented and the sentences that were requested.” Gallego agreed that “we all have to start believing the boys who denounce abuses,” and pointed out that “96% of the testimonies of the boys who make denouncements are substantiated by the experts, although that very high percentage is not predictive of the eventual judicial verdict and sentence.”
Jorge Calcagno, another attorney supporting the plaintiffs, emphasized that the State and the Church: “Should take a stronger stance on the delinquents dressed in priest robes; in the trial against former generals, convictions were given to those who had tortured, murdered, or killed babies, showing no regard for their wearing a uniform.”
Piris, the third attorney supporting the plaintiffs, asked that the State and the Justices take control of the places where children reside for social causes, because “at Happy Children, the kids were left in the hands of exonerated ex-policemen who knew nothing about caring for children.”