New York Post
March 12, 2021
By Priscilla DeGregory
A Staten Island priest has been accused of grooming a recently divorced and depressed parishioner who sought counseling from him for years to eventually sexually abuse her, new court papers say.
Father Basil Akut in 2015 offered weekly counseling to the woman “in order to isolate, manipulate, and groom her for sexual abuse,” her Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit from Friday alleges.
The victim — who is not named in the court papers — also went to weekly confession with Akut and attended all of his masses at Our Lady Star of the Sea on Staten Island, the court papers say.
From 2016 to 2018, Akut would shower the woman with compliments about her personality and appearance, would text and call her and spend “an inordinate amount of time” with her, the court documents claim.
Things escalated in January 2018 when Akut confessed he was in love with the woman and by the fall of that year Akut told her, “he is still in love with her and that he fantasizes about her sexually,” the suit alleges.
Akut told the woman that he thinks about her naked and wanted to touch and kiss her before asking her if she was attracted to him, too, the court papers allege.
In mid-October 2018 during one of their weekly counseling sessions, Akut forced a kiss on her while pushing her against a counter, the court documents claim.
The woman’s mental health was declining, and she took sleeping pills to help with her insomnia. And one night after she had taken a sleeping pill, Akut called her and pressured her to come to the rectory, where he proceeded to grope her body, kiss her and sexually abuse her, the court papers claim.
“Akut held plaintiff’s hands behind her back,” the suit charges. “Stunned, drowsy, and confused, plaintiff remained motionless.”
She said “This is a big deal to me… I’m not ready for that…this is too fast,” the court papers allege.
But, Akut continued with the sexual abuse anyway, the suit alleges.
Over the next half year Akut “used his position of influence, trust and power in plaintiff’s life to pressure her into continuing to submit to his acts of sexual abuse,” the court papers allege.
When the woman told him she didn’t want his abuse and harassment, Akut would manipulate her by saying, “you don’t want me? Why are you rejecting me? You are making me feel unwanted,” the court documents allege.
The alleged abuse — which continued through August 2020 — led her to suffer from “vivid nightmares, guilt, shame and embarrassment,” the suit claims.
Plaintiff lawyer Michael Dowd told The Post, “This priest is a predator who clearly took advantage of a person who is a devout Catholic by sexually assaulting her.
“He literally is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
The woman is suing Akut, the parish and the Archdiocese of New York for unspecified damages.
Akut did not immediately return an email and a message left through the parish website.
Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling told The Post, “The archdiocese takes all allegations of sexual abuse seriously, and responds with compassion, dignity, and respect.
“However, we cannot comment on the specifics of any particular lawsuit.”