It's Priest's Word Vs. Boy's Jury Gets Case of Rev Accused of Groping Child, 12

By Scott Shifrel
Daily News (New York)
April 24, 2003

For both sides in the trial of a Catholic priest accused of groping a 12-year-old boy last year, it comes down to one thing - the priest's word versus the boy's.

The Rev. Peter Kiarie's testimony yesterday directly contradicted the boy's about what happened on June 16, 2002, at Rockaway Beach.

Both agreed they spent that Father's Day going to a bodega, the beach, a restaurant and a bus stop.

But the boy says the visiting Kenyan priest repeatedly fondled him. Kiarie insists he didn't.

"Did you ever touch that boy in the grocery store?" defense attorney Salvatore Canonico asked Kiarie yesterday.

"Never, I had no reason to touch him," Kiarie answered.

"Did you ever say anything about his private parts?" Canonico asked.

"No, we had no such conversation," the priest replied

Kiarie - facing two years in prison on eight counts of sex abuse and groping and one of endangering a child's welfare - spoke in accented English in a quiet, direct manner.

Mom introduced them

His low-key demeanor was similar to that of the boy - now 13 - when he testified on Tuesday that Kiarie, 41, repeatedly touched him, once even putting his hand down his pants.

The boy met Kiarie through his mother, who worked in the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians Church in Woodside.

Jurors, as they start deliberating today, need to decide who was lying, Canonico said in his closing statement.

"Which had the ring of truth?" he asked.

Canonico said the boy's testimony that the beach was nearly empty made no sense.

"This is the middle of June," he said. "Did you ever find a spot that was 150 feet away from anybody else?"

But the boy had no reason to lie, prosecutor Kenneth Appelbaum said.

"That quiet, polite, respectful little boy . . . had in his mind for whatever reason that he's going to create a huge false sex abuse allegation against a priest?" he asked. "Think of what an evil thing that is."

Appelbaum said the boy didn't immediately tell anyone because he was confused and because it happened so quickly.

"He is a priest in the Catholic Church, and you may find it an unhappy duty to find him guilty," he said. "But it is your duty."


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