Just Another Abuse Case

By Jimmy Breslin
Newsday (New York)
June 27, 2002

On the arraignment calendar at Criminal Court on Queens Boulevard yesterday was Peter Kiarie, 41, a priest. His arraignment was set for mid-morning in a windowless room on the ground floor.

The room was crowded with people who were there for their relatives. No Roman collars were in evidence.

"Either get a seat or you have to leave," a female court officer said. Another Official Woman, clip-clop, sit down, you.

In the last row, a man had his little girl with him. She was about 2, and she was asleep with her head in his lap and her legs sprawled. I squeezed into the row and sat on the edge of the bench with her legs behind me. She moved. The father snorted.

Out of the detention pen came a couple of young guys who had been charged with arson on a 1989 Plymouth. The case did not look that dangerous to anybody. But one lawyer said that his client had been arrested inside his home at 5 in the morning. His sister was pregnant and had been up most of the night and was a witness that he never had left. The judge had one bail of $5,000 and the other $7,500.

Now came a man in a light blue polo shirt. He was on probation for something that happened on Bell Boulevard in Bayside. He had been convicted twice before this for contempt with orders of protection regarding his wife. Apparently she had badgered and harassed him in return. Some contact was made again and he wound up getting arrested.

A girl in a sleeveless white top sat in front of me and looked at him intensely. Her hair was pulled back. The judge said the bail was $15,000. The young woman fixed the shoulder of her shirt nervously. In front of the courtroom, the man turned and looked at her. He said without speaking, "Do you have it?"

She said to him, silently, "I don't."

The guard tapped him on the elbow and he walked off into the pens.

On the bench next to me, the little girl began to snore.

I asked the father, "Are you here for the mother?"

"No, it isn't her mother."

"What's the beef?"

"I don't know. It's crazy."

Now there was a young woman with her light hair in a ponytail and a party with her, all young, all with black hair and white shirts. They were charged with disorderly conduct in an empty lot at 97-48 Bristol Ave. in Ozone Park. Two of the boys were released immediately. One, James Galente, was given five days of community service and a $60 fine. The young woman, one Ms. Santoro, was given time served, which probably was the day she spent in jail while they checked her fingerprints.

In the doorway going out of the courtroom, Galente said something about having to wait in the courtroom. He said something to one of the young men, who had bangs, about staying there for some reason.

The mother of the boy with bangs, at least somewhat irritated at spending the morning in a courtroom, poked her son. "You're going home with me."

Galente sat. I waved for him to come over. I was going to tell him to get out of there forever. As I had spent the first third of my life in disorderly conduct in empty lots in Ozone Park, I figured I owed that. But when I tried to talk, the Official Woman snapped, "No talking."

Another boy-meets-girl case was called. A big guy in a red T-shirt came out. Along the way, the prosecutor was asked, "did the spouse require medical attention?"

"No," he said.

The lawyer said, "My client lives with a spouse who is not a complainant." The red T-shirt walked.

In the next case, the judge set $1,000 bail. The lawyer turned to the family and held up one finger with inquiring eyebrows. The family sitting in the seat shook their heads. One thousand dollars is huge money in Queens.

Now a slim guy in a white polo shirt was brought in. His name was called as Peter Kiarie. Nobody said that he was a Roman Catholic priest. He was charged with sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in a Father's Day outing to Rockaway Beach. He is a missionary priest from Africa and a member of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Ireland. If you can figure that out, you can decipher the Vatican.

He arrived here on June 11 and had been preaching at Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians Church in Woodside. It always was known as St. Mary's of Winfield and was famous for fascist pastors.

For a new arrival, he walked on the usual path of pedophiles and child molesters. He became instantly friendly with the boy's mother, who worked in the church office. He then asked if he could take her 12-year-old boy to Rockaway. She thought it was fine. He is charged with molesting the boy in a grocery store, at 116th Street and the boardwalk, in a restaurant, and in the bus back to Woodside.

When the priest and the boy got back to the rectory, he and the boy's mother and her boyfriend went to Manhattan and did some sight-seeing. In the usual course of events, the boy would be too humiliated to talk about this for years, if ever. Not this time. He got up the next day and told his mother.

Kiarie said nothing and his body did not move. He was held on $50,000 bail. A court officer gave him a sheet of paper about his situation and he was reading it as he went out the door into the detention pens. He was another reason why the institution of the Catholic Church looks ready to fall apart. The matter-of-fact arrest and arraignment in a courtroom where nobody thought Peter Kiarie was an extraordinary defendant only magnified the problem. Once, there was hatred and pity, the priests and their hierarchy, and now they grow boring.

The little girl on the bench was snoring away. I hoped that the father would carry her out of here before she woke up and looked at where she was.


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