Sexual-Abuse Accuser Found Not Guilty of Assaulting Teen

By Jan TenBruggencate
Honolulu Advertiser [Hawaii]
January 6, 2007

Lihu'e, Kaua'i —A former Kaua'i resident who received a settlement from the Catholic Church over allegations of sexual abuse by a priest was found not guilty yesterday of accusations he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl in 1996, when he was 35.

Eugene Saulibio, 45, said during trial this week in 5th Circuit Court that his relationship with the girl was consensual. He said that their relationship did not involve intercourse.

In 2002, Saulibio said that Sacred Hearts priest Joseph Bukoski III sexually abused him when Saulibio was 15. The Fathers of the Sacred Heart in 2005 settled with Saulibio, paying him an undisclosed amount, including a portion of Bukoski's salary for a 10-year period.

Twenty years later, Saulibio, 35 and married, entered into a relationship with a 14-year-old girl visiting from the Mainland.

She later came forward after learning of Saulibio's allegations against the priest.

Saulibio admitted kissing and fondling the girl but denied having intercourse, his attorneys said.

Attorneys Victor Bakke and Michael Soong conceded it was a difficult case to bring before a jury.

"He was 35 and married and fooling around with a 14-year-old," Bakke said.

Saulibio had been charged with four counts of sexual assault and was found not guilty on all four counts after a three-day trial and two days of jury deliberations.

"We maintained all along that there was a consensual relationship, and given the age of consent in 1996, Eugene committed no crime," Soong said.

At the time of their relationship, the age of consent was 14.

It is now 16, and the kind of relationship Saulibio admitted to would be a felony under present law.

Soong said Saulibio has apologized to his family, friends and to the girl, who is now in her mid-20s.

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