|Accuser Testifies on First Day of Naugatuck Priest's Sex Assault Trial
By Jonathan Shugarts
January 13, 2009
WATERBURY -- A Naugatuck teenager testified on Monday his relationship with Rev. Robert J. Grant, a Roman Catholic priest, began with back massages.
But it turned into drinking wine from paper cups and, eventually, oral sex.
Grant's trial on sexual assault and risk of injury charges began in Waterbury Superior Court with testimony from the teenager, who is now 18. Grant, 67, served as a priest at St. Mary's and St. Hedwig's churches in Naugatuck, but after his 2007 arrest was placed on administrative leave.
Grant's attorney, William St. John, told the jury the teenager's claims against Grant were a search for money based on current and pending lawsuits filed against the embattled priest.
The boy, who was 15 at the time he says the incidents occurred, worked at St. Mary's with his father, who had been a maintenance man there for about 15 years. The boy, referred to in court proceedings as "C.R.," said he helped his father with janitorial chores around the church.
Grant would sit in the church pews reading, and in a confessional booth, as the boy carried out his chores, C.R. testified. In a rear room of the church, behind its altar, the boy would talk with Grant as he finished his work, he testified.
Grant asked the teenager about his hobbies and how he was doing in school, but those talks eventually led to the priest pouring wine into paper Dixie cups and telling the boy to drink, C.R. testified.
"He would insist on it, so I would drink it," C.R. said.
From 2006 to 2007, Grant asked the teenager for back massages and eventually for oral sex. Senior State's Attorney Catherine Austin asked C.R. to show the jury how he performed the sex acts on Grant, prompting C.R. to kneel on the floor in front of the jury.
"He asked me to undo his belt," the boy said. "I looked at him and asked him if he was serious."
The teenager was paid after each encounter. Grant gave him $20 from a silver money clip after he gave the boy wine, then $50 after the massages and $100 after oral sex, C.R. testified. Grant told the boy to keep the sexual encounters to himself, but by that point C.R. said he felt ashamed and embarrassed, which prompted him to avoid reporting the incidents to police.
The boy returned home after an encounter with Grant and his father smelled wine on his breath, which eventually led him to confess to his father about the incidents.
The teenager, wearing glasses and gold stud earrings, showed little expression as he told the jury about his encounters with Grant. Equally expressionless was Grant, who fingered a blue pen and showed little reaction as he listened to the testimony.
According to St. John, the boy's father is seeking $90,000 from the church that he claims he's owed on a terminated maintenance contract.
"After he didn't get it, you went to the Naugatuck police and told them this story ... isn't that correct?" St. John asked the boy.
C.R. replied: "It's not so much of a story."
The boy's father, referred to as "H.R." in the courtroom, said he was originally from Guyana and was a Hindu. He had worked as a maintenance man for various priests throughout his time with the church and had lived in Naugatuck since 1980. At one point, Grant and the family were close; the priest ate at the family home and the two would take short walks together.
On March 25, 2007, H.R.'s son told him he had performed oral sex on Grant, prompting the father to confront Grant the next day. According to H.R.'s testimony, Grant admitted he gave the boy wine and money, but denied he had sex with him.
"I don't think anybody as a parent would like to hear a priest did that to their son," H.R. said.
Grant fired H.R. on March 27, 2007, which prompted H.R. to file a lawsuit in May against St. Mary's Church, claiming Grant wrongfully fired him after he refused an order to remove asbestos wrapping from a set of basement pipes.
"He fired me because I confronted him about what he did to C.R.," the teenager's father said.
Under cross examination from St. John, the boy said he planned to file a suit against Grant based on the alleged sexual encounters.
Grant's trial is expected to continue today. He faces up to 20 years for the second-degree sexual assault charge.
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