Visiting Priest Faces Charges
Accused of Molesting Boy, 12

By Wil Cruz and William Murphy
Newsday (New York)
June 27, 2002

A Roman Catholic priest visiting from Kenya to raise money for African missions has been suspended from his duties after being charged with sexually abusing a Woodside youngster, officials said yesterday.

The Rev. Peter Kiarie, 41, was ordered held on $50,000 bail after his arraignment in Queens Criminal Court in Kew Gardens on five counts of sexual abuse, five counts of forcible touching and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

The prosecution portrayed Kiarie as an authority figure who lured the 12-year-old boy away from his family for a day trip to the Rockaways on Father's Day, then sexually abused him.

The defense questioned why the alleged victim never objected and never complained until the next day - even after going to dinner later that day with his mother, step-father and the priest at a Mexican restaurant in Queens before visiting tourist spots in Manhattan.

Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Appelbaum said that after 14 years as a prosecutor it did not surprise him that the youth, whom he described as "intelligent, very capable," had not objected immediately.

"It has been my experience that when a person is in a position of authority ... over the child, in that case, you can expect to get a delayed outcry," Appelbaum told the judge.

Defense Attorney Michael Gaffney said the alleged acts all occurred in public, including a small grocery and on a beach, yet no independent witness had come forward.

Appelbaum said the priest had selected a remote spot on the beach where he could not be observed, and it was not surprising that people in the grocery and at the bus stop did not see the acts because they were "a quick grab and fondle."

The most serious charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to 1 year in jail. The case was due back in court tomorrow.

The Queens district attorney's office said the allegations had been brought to its attention by the Holy Ghost Fathers, a religious order based in Ireland to which Kiarie belonged.

Kiarie had been saying Mass at Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians Church in Woodside since arriving here June 11 and had been staying at a residence of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Long Island City.

The parish released a statement yesterday saying that the priest was suspended as soon as the allegations surfaced.

The church was empty yesterday afternoon, and the only response from the parish was the statement saying Kiarie had been suspended.

Patrick Clark, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said the allegations had been brought to the attention of authorities by the church.

The Diocese of Brooklyn said the priest was just visiting and was not under its jurisdiction.


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