Trial of ex-priest begins; alleged victim testifies against Broussard
By Crystal Stevenson
February 2, 2016
A state district court jury heard testimony Monday from a man who said former priest Mark Broussard began sexually assaulting him when he was an 8-year-old altar boy at St. Henry Catholic Church.
Broussard is charged with molestation of a juvenile, oral sexual battery, aggravated oral sexual battery and two counts of aggravated rape. The charges — he originally faced 224 counts of child molestation — stem from his time as a priest in Lake Charles in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
The victim’s testimony followed opening statements and testimony from Bishop Glenn John Provost, the first witness called by prosecutors.
Provost, who joined the diocese in 2007, said he met the victim in December 2012, speaking with him about a day and a half after the victim had talked to Monsignor Daniel Torres, the vicar general of the diocese.
“I found him quite presentable,” Provost said. “He was convincing, and the story was quite compelling.”
He said the diocese “wanted to address whatever (the victim) required. It is a matter of our own responsibility.” Provost said church officials reported the allegations to authorities and encouraged the victim to do likewise.
He said the diocese gave the alleged victim $125,000 “as some type of monetary compensation or reimbursement for counseling.”
“I viewed the settlement not as a judgment of innocent or guilty but as the church’s responsibility for counseling for a man I deemed credible as a victim of assault.”
The victim said he was first approached by Broussard while riding his bike on church grounds.
He said Broussard stepped in front of his bike, grabbed the handlebars and began questioning him.
“This was a stranger,” he said. “I had gone to the church since I was very young, and this was a face I had never seen before.”
He said Broussard told him to not be nervous and asked him if he was hungry and if he wanted to ride with him to McDonald’s.
The victim said he shook his head but agreed to stay on the sidewalk while Broussard went to get the food and bring it back.
“He came back with the McDonald’s, placed it on a picnic table and then started asking me a bunch of questions like where I went to school, if I had friends at school,” the victim said.
“He complimented me on my complexion, the color of my skin. I told him kids made fun of my hair. He told me he liked it and that it was pretty.”
He said Broussard initially sat across from him while he ate, but later got up and sat next to him and started rubbing his leg.
The victim said his father was repairing an air-conditioning unit at the church at the time and was working in a room adjacent to the picnic table.
“I could see the room my dad was in and I kept hoping he would open the blinds,” he said. “I was uncomfortable.”
He said the abuse began a month later.
He said his parents were involved in the church’s music ministry and would arrive an hour early for the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass to set up the instruments and do a sound check.
“What would happen was I would be there early,” the victim said. “I’d go to the altar boy room to get ready and wait.”
He said Broussard initially would enter the room and help him get into his robe and tie it around the waist.
“That grew into him fondling me through my clothes,” he said. “From there it grew to him unbuckling my pants and him putting his hands down the front of my pants and fondling me.”
The victim said Broussard would lock the door to the altar boys’ dressing room and if someone would knock while they were inside, Broussard would hide in the closet and the victim would answer the door and tell Broussard when the area was clear.
The victim said Broussard continued to fondle him before Mass for the next two to three months. From there, he said the assaults escalated into oral sex in the priests’ dressing room after Mass.
“After Mass he would instruct me to hang back and wait by the priests’ room,” he testified. “When this was happening, it was under the context that this was natural, that this is what God wanted. As an altar boy it was my duty to serve God but more directly Mark Broussard.”
He said Broussard would ask him to meet him in the confessional where he would be instructed to sit in Broussard’s lap while the priest fondled him through his clothing.
The victim said about nine months to a year after their first meeting, Broussard began raping him in the church rectory.
“What was happening no longer gratified him to a point,” the victim said. “He would crack a window in the bathroom, and that was when I knew the rectory was all clear. He would have me hide my bike behind plants on the back porch and climb through the window.”
He said the rape happened “more than twice, but less than five times.”
He said he started to cry during one of the attacks and a woman heard him and banged on the door demanding it be opened. He said Broussard put his pants back on, unlocked the door and threatened the woman.
The victim said Broussard told him if he said anything to his parents, they wouldn’t be allowed to play music or attend the church any longer.
“He told me what was happening was supposed to be happening,” he said. “I was lucky, chosen, this is what good altar boys do, this is God’s work.”
The victim said the abuse ended when he was about 12. He said he repressed the memories of the abuse, but that they flooded back in 2005 as he was riding out Hurricane Katrina in his New Orleans apartment.
“Knowing what I knew, if I didn’t do anything, I would be just as guilty,” he testified. “I’d be no better than them — the church — since they didn’t protect me. They failed to protect me from a predator.”