Asbury Park Press
May 28, 2021
By Kathleen Hopkins
As the former pastor of St. Veronica R.C. Church in Howell stands trial on charges he sexually assaulted a child on three occasions in the late 1990s, the dates of the alleged acts has become crucial to the case.
The victim, a 34-year-old woman, testified Tuesday and Wednesday that she suppressed memories of the three incidents for more than two decades, but said two of the incidents occurred when she was 11 and the third when she was 12.
But Robert J. Konzelmann, defense attorney for the Rev. Henry Brendan Williams, on Thursday produced a transcript of the woman’s statement to detectives and suggested she may have been coached to say she was younger than 13 when she actually might have been older when the alleged molestation occurred.
Thomas Fichter, assistant Monmouth County prosecutor, objected to what he said was hearsay being introduced at the trial, but he also said, “If she’s not under the age of 13 when she was molested, then there’s no crime.”
New Jersey law provides that a person is guilty of sexual assault if the person commits an act of sexual contact with a victim who is younger than 13, and the actor is at least four years older than the victim. Williams, now 80, is charged with three counts of sexual assault, each second-degree crimes punishable by five to 10 years in prison.
Michael Magliozzo was a detective sergeant in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office when he investigated the case and took statements from the victim and her parents. He has since retired from the prosecutor’s office and is now a lieutenant in the law enforcement division of the Monmouth County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Konzelmann, cross-examining Magliozzo on Thursday, challenged him about various dates given for the alleged offenses. Magliozzo acknowledged the victim’s father, who was a deacon at St. Veronica’s, told him the first alleged incident of molestation occurred sometime after his ordination in May 1999.
The victim would have been 12 in 1999.
She testified the first incident occurred during the summer of 1998 while she was at dinner with her family and Williams at the Shrimp Box restaurant in Point Pleasant Beach. She testified that Williams, seated next to her, slipped his hand underneath the tablecloth and up her thigh to her private parts.
Konzelmann noted that Magliozzo’s report said that incident occurred in 1999, but a grand jury indictment alleged it happened in 1998.
“How did they come up with 1998?” Konzelmann asked.
“I have no idea,” Magliozzo responded.
The victim testified that the second alleged incident occurred during the fall of 1998, when she was still 11, at her home in Colts Neck. She said Williams was over to her family’s house for dinner when he came over to her on the couch, started rubbing her back and then touched her breast.
Konzelmann produced a transcript of a statement the victim gave to Magliozzo and another detective in which she said she believed she was 14 years old when that happened.
According to the transcript, Magliozzo said to her, “This could be anywhere from 10 to 14. It would be safe to say your’e probably under 12.”
Konzelmann challenged Magliozzo about that.
“And she’s saying it could have been after the summer of 1999, but you want to make sure she’s under 12,” Konzelmann said.
“No, actually, I’m a little insulted about that, Mr. Konzelmann,” Magliozzo responded.
According to the alleged victim’s statement to the detectives, produced by Konzelmann, she said the third incident of molestation, during an anniversary party at Crystal Point Inn in Point Pleasant, happened “probably a year or two” after the first incident.
“I think I was in seventh grade, maybe going into eighth grade, so maybe 13; 12 or 13,” she said, according to the transcript.
In court on Tuesday, she testified the third incident occurred in the summer of1999, when she was 12 and going into seventh grade. She testified that Williams did the same thing to her at Crystal Point as he had at the Shrimp Box.
The Asbury Park Press does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
The woman’s father testified Thursday following Magliozzo’s cross-examination. His testimony threw further confusion into when the alleged assaults occurred. He testified his family had taken Williams to dinner at the Shrimp Box sometime in 1999, when his daughter was 12.
But when asked by Konzelmann if that could have occurred as late as 2004, he said, “You’re talking 20 years (ago). I can’t tell you if it’s 2000, 2001. I don’t even know where I was in 2000.”
He acknowledged he may have told Magliozzo that the anniversary party at Crystal Point took place between one and two years after the dinner at the Shrimp Box.
In a statement played in court on Wednesday, Williams told detectives he placed his hand on the girl’s thigh and squeezed it as a gesture of friendship during the dinner at the Shrimp Box. But he said that was much later — just before the girl’s high school graduation.
The woman’s father testified it wasn’t until late 2018 or early 2019 that his daughter first told him Williams had sexually assaulted her as a child. He said another person in whom his daughter confided had told him about the molestation around the same time, but he refused to reveal who that person was.
“That person doesn’t want to be involved,” he said.
“Well this woman has information about a very serious allegation,” Konzelmann shot back.
“No sir, that’s her wishes,” the father said.
“What about the wishes of Father Williams?” Konzelmann asked.
The father testified that he cried when his daughter told him of the allegations. He said he agonized over whether to report the allegations to the prosecutor’s office.
“There were a lot of conflicting feelings inside me,” he said. “They involved people I knew, people I cared about.”
They included his daughter as well as the accused, he said.
“It wasn’t an easy thing to do,” he said of his decision to report the allegations. “It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life.”
Williams, who was pastor of St. Veronica from 1979 to 2012, is on trial before Superior Court Judge Ellen Torregrossa-O’Connor. He passed up a jury trial and opted for the judge to decide his guilt or innocence.
Kathleen Hopkins, a reporter in New Jersey since 1985, covers crime, court cases, legal issues, unsolved mysteries and just about every major murder trial to hit Monmouth and Ocean counties. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.