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  Jail, Then Deportation for Priest

By Joann Klimkiewicz
Hartford Courant [New Britain CT]
February 18, 2005

NEW BRITAIN -- The Rev. Roman Kramek was sentenced to nine months in prison Thursday for sexually assaulting a teenage girl who had sought his spiritual counseling more than two years ago.

The Polish cleric stood silent and stoic in the crowded courtroom, listening through an interpreter as Superior Court Judge Susan B. Handy reminded him of the sacred vows he took upon entering the priesthood.

"Instead of ... upholding those vows, you took advantage of a young, troubled woman for your own sexual gratification," she told Kramek, 42, who arrived from Poland in late 2002 for a temporary assignment at Sacred Heart Church in New Britain.

The judge said she handed down the sentence - accepted by Kramek in December as part of a plea bargain - to bring the case to a close and spare the girl, now 19, further humiliation.

In a statement read in court, the girl offered Kramek her forgiveness. He did not offer an apology.

Kramek faced up to 10 years in prison but instead received the minimum sentence for second-degree sexual assault.

He will be deported after serving his sentence. If the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service does not complete deportation proceedings by the time of his release, he will serve probation in the interim.

Because the priest pleaded guilty to a felony, he cannot be readmitted to the U.S. once he leaves.

Thursday's sentencing ends a case that cast an uncomfortable spotlight on New Britain's Polish community - an intensely private, tight-knit group with deep Catholic roots.

"Your actions have severely divided this community," Handy said in a courtroom that included a clutch of Kramek's supporters and more than a dozen members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), national group for survivors of clergy abuse.

After Kramek quietly surrendered to police on Christmas Eve 2002, some in the community rallied around the priest, raising money to post his bail and to support his defense. They questioned the girl's reputation and alleged that Kramek was the victim.

The fervent support for a man they hardly knew - and the quick doubt they cast on the girl - seemed a curious response to outside observers and many area Polish Americans.

"Many people in her own community ostracized her. All this happened because she dared tell the truth," New Britain State's Attorney Scott Murphy said Thursday of the girl, who sat in the front row beside her grandmother.

With Kramek's DNA sample matching a patch of dry saliva from the girl's breast, and with the priest having pleaded guilty, Murphy said he hoped the same community that shunned the girl could now offer the support they have saved so far for the priest.

And, Murphy said, he hoped Kramek would now give the girl a public apology. But the priest made no statement Thursday.

In a handwritten letter read by the court's victim advocate, the girl described the incident as having deeply shaken her faith - and "to me, my faith means everything."

She said she prays daily for the man who promised to give her spiritual guidance one month after her rape in a taxicab, but instead forced intercourse on her to show that sex with a man - as he explained to a Polish-speaking officer - could be pleasurable.

Kramek came to New Britain from Szyleny in northern Poland to serve for the Christmas season at Sacred Heart, a Polish parish and one of the largest in the city. He agreed to speak with the girl at the suggestion of a parishioner. The assault took place Dec. 18, 2002, in the living room of the girl's New Britain home while her grandmother was busy in the next room.

"I forgive him," the girl wrote, "because I don't want to hold a grudge and be angry for the rest of my life."

William Dow, Kramek's attorney, said the priest is eager to complete his sentence and return to Poland. Handy agreed to have the priest's passport turned over to Dow to help expedite deportation proceedings.

Kramek was placed Thursday in the custody of the Department of Correction and ordered into protective custody. He was also ordered to have no contact with the girl and no unsupervised contact with minors. He will have to undergo psychiatric evaluation and sexual offender treatment.

As he was escorted into a holding cell, Kramek waved goodbye to two women who have been his most visible supporters. He has no family here.

The case's conclusion prompted applause from members of SNAP, who came from as far as New Jersey. They held a silent vigil outside the court Thursday morning.

Some of Kramek's supporters left the court in tears Thursday. They maintain he is innocent and say he pleaded guilty to put the case behind him and finally return home.

"He is a victim of the system, a victim of the difficult times in the [Roman Catholic] church," said Lucyna Kolakowska, a prominent New Britain doctor and a Kramek supporter who befriended the priest after his arrest.

"There is no victory in this case for anyone," she said.

 
 

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