Priest Not Guilty of Abusing Qns. Boy

By Scott Shifrel
Daily News (New York)
April 25, 2003

A Queens jury acquitted a Catholic priest yesterday of groping and fondling a 12-year-old boy.

The Rev. Peter Kiarie grabbed his attorney's hand, bowed his head and cried as the forewoman read the verdict.

"I have no ill will," he said afterward, wiping his eyes with a handkerchief as he left the Kew Gardens courthouse. "If that boy was here, I would give him a hug. I always prayed that God would forgive him and that he would tell the truth."

It was the boy's word against the priest's as to what happened on a trip to Rockaway Beach last Father's Day.

The boy, who is now 13, testified that Kiarie, who turns 42 on Monday, fondled him in a bodega, on a beach, in a restaurant and at a bus stop.

Kiarie, a visiting priest from Kenya, met the boy while at Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians Church in Woodside, where his mother worked.

On the stand, the priest insisted he never touched the boy.

"Mr. Kiarie, only you know if justice was served here," said Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise. "I wish you a lot of luck."

The judge also ordered that Kiarie's passport be returned.

The priest was charged with four counts of sexual abuse, four counts of groping and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, and could have faced two years in jail.

"Justice was served," defense lawyer Salvatore Canonico said as his client sat crying and shaking his head just outside the courtroom for 15 minutes after the verdict was read. "I think we had a very intelligent jury. They decided that my client was more credible than that young boy."

Prosecutor Kenneth Appelbaum and the three men and three women on the jury declined to comment.

Kiarie, an ordained priest since 1993, is a member of the Holy Ghost Fathers religious order of missionary priests but has not performed any priestly duties since his arrest.

He had flown to New York for the first time the week before the June 16 trip with the boy to help raise money.

"I was just new," Kiarie said yesterday. "I knew nothing about what was happening. How would you feel if you were in a strange country and this happened?"

He said he plans to return to Kenya as soon as possible.


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