Judge Delays Call in Abuse Case against Priest

By Michael Zeigler
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle
November 23, 2005

A judge reserved decision today on a request by a Roman Catholic priest to dismiss charges that he molested a 14-year-old boy at a Rochester church.

Rochester City Court Judge John E. Elliott said he'll decide Dec. 21 whether misdemeanor charges of third-degree sexual abuse and forcible touching should stand against the Rev. Dennis R. Sewar, 54.

Sewar, who is on sabbatical from St. John the Evangelist Church in Spencerport, is charged with molesting the boy from 1999 to 2001 when he was pastor of Church of the Annunciation on Norton Street.

The alleged victim, who is now 20, claimed Sewar touched his clothed genitals about 50 times while he and Sewar watched baseball on a big-screen television in Sewar's private quarters in the church rectory.

Sewar's lawyer, John F. Speranza, asked Elliott to dismiss the charges on the ground that a document filed by police to bring Sewar to court was legally defective. The document is supposed to be called an accusatory instrument but was titled "warrant application."

Assistant District Attorney Elena Tasikas said the document was mislabeled but contained information required by the law to bring Sewar to court.

When the mistake was discovered, police filed a new document that was properly labeled.

Under the statute of limitations, the alleged victim had until his 20th birthday to file charges. He filed the charges one month before he turned 20.

Speranza, however, said the new document was filed too late to comply with the statute of limitations.

Sewar was originally charged with third-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. Elliott dismissed the charge of endangerment in October and the new accusatory instrument repeated the original charge of third-degree sexual abuse and replaced the charge of endangerment with a charge of forcible touching.


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