At Civil Sex Abuse Trial, St. Louis Priest Is Described As Predator, Brother and Savior
By Joel Currier
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
March 29, 2017
TROY, MO. • Wearing his clerical collar, Rev. Xiu Hui “Joseph” Jiang sat in a courtroom Tuesday as lawyers on opposing sides of a civil lawsuit portrayed him as a sexual predator who betrayed Lincoln County family’s trust and as the brotherly savior to a teenage girl seeking refuge from her family’s religious cult rituals.
Jiang, 31, is on trial this week in a civil suit accusing him of molesting a 16-year-old girl during a visit to her home in 2012. At the time, Jiang was an associate pastor at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica in the Central West End. The teen’s parents sued the priest, St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson and the St. Louis Archdiocese in 2013, accusing Jiang of abuse and Carlson of failing to supervise Jiang despite knowing that Jiang was dangerous to children.
Jiang arrived in St. Louis in 2009 with Carlson, who was installed as archbishop that year. Originally from China, Jiang had been in Carlson’s care since he was a young seminarian. Jiang was ordained here in 2010.
Lawyers for Jiang, his accuser and the archdiocese gave opening statements Tuesday to start what could be a two-week trial in Lincoln County Circuit Court. St. Louis Circuit Judge Steven Ohmer was appointed to preside over the trial after criminal charges against Jiang were dropped.
Jiang’s accuser, now 21, was in court Tuesday; the Post-Dispatch does not identify accusers in sex crime cases. Carlson, too, watched the opening statements from the courtroom.
The plaintiff’s lawyer, Nicole Gorovsky, told jurors Jiang grew close with the teen’s family after meeting them after mass at the Cathedral Basilica in 2011. Gorovsky said the teen’s family believed Jiang was a “special priest” because of his prestigious assignment at the cathedral, and over several months, he frequently visited them at their Old Monroe home, sometimes spending the night to avoid late-night drives back to the rectory in St. Louis.
“When a priest chooses you, it feels like you’re a holy family,” Gorovsky said.
Jiang and the teen exchanged hundreds of text messages and emails over several months in which he expressed his love for and desire to be with her, Gorovsky told jurors. She said Jiang molested the teen in June 2012 while sitting under a blanket with her on the living room couch.
“She thought she was in love,” Gorovsky told jurors. “But really, it was manipulation and abuse.”
Jiang’s lawyer, Gerard Carmody, told jurors the allegations against Jiang are “absolutely false” and couldn’t have happened with at least five other relatives in the room at the time, including the teen’s mother sitting next to them on the couch. The girl’s family, Carmody said, “ultimately became his family” and he and the teen were so close they regularly “called each other brother and sister.”
“Father Jiang and the (teen’s) family communicated their affection to each other all the time,” Carmody said.
Carmody also told jurors the teen became “obsessed” with Jiang because her family needed his help “extricating themselves” from the influence of a “religious cult” that included her being subjected to routine exorcisms from the age of 12 to 16.
Charges of child endangerment and witness tampering that alleged Jiang left a $20,000 check and an apology on the teen’s parents’ van as hush money were dismissed in November 2013. Jiang had left the check because he had previously offered that amount to help the family with a down payment on a new house but rescinded the offer after consulting Carlson about it. Jiang thought the family was accusing him of abuse because they were upset about him taking back his offer, Carmody said.
Carmody also introduced what he said were conflicting statements made by Jiang’s accuser before and after she filed suit.
Jerry Noce, a lawyer for the St. Louis Archdiocese, says he plans to dispute evidence that Carlson knew Jiang was a danger.