|Former Priest Guilty of Assault
Ex-Cleric Abused Boy, Jury Finds
By Monte Whaley
March 27, 2007
Fort Collins — Jurors said Monday that they didn't buy the claims of a former Fort Collins priest that his manhandling and caressing of a 17-year-old boy was an innocent expression of his love.
Instead, the five-man, seven- woman panel convicted 43-year- old Timothy Joseph Evans of three counts of sexual assault of a child by a person in a position of trust. The third count also included a sentencing-enhancing charge of "pattern of abuse," which means Evans faces a mandatory prison sentence of 10 years.
Evans could be sentenced to a maximum of life in prison on May 30. He was the first Catholic priest in Colorado to face criminal charges since clergy- abuse allegations hit the national stage in 2002.
Colorado State University student Jamie Cohn, who served all last week on the jury, said Evans had little or no credibility with the panel. His tape-recorded statements that he was "obsessed" with his victim showed his guilt, Cohn said.
"Who says that to a boy, especially a priest?" Cohn said. "And he never denied it."
Both Cohn and fellow juror Sharon Harmon were released as alternate jurors. Harmon said three other male witnesses - who claimed Evans fondled them as well - helped corroborate the 25-year-old's story.
"None of them knew each other before this happened," Harmon said. "The defense couldn't shake them."
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput said the archdiocese promptly reported the allegations against Evans to police and then removed Evans from the ministry in the archdiocese.
"I express my sorrow for anyone who has been harmed by Timothy Evans' actions," Chaput said in a statement. "We hope the conclusion of this trial begins a process of healing for all those affected by these sad events."
Evans served at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Fort Collins from 1998 to 2002. The boy testified that Evans pinned him on his bed in the church rectory, then reached under the boy's boxer shorts and groped him. On another occasion, Evans grabbed the boy's buttocks with both hands for 20 seconds before letting go. This was after the boy and Evans watched a Broncos playoff game and drank beer in the rectory.
Prosecutors said the boy was intimidated by Evans' lofty stature as a priest, which is why he didn't report the assaults sooner. "The only reason Tim Evans was allowed to get close and spend so much time with (his alleged victims) was because he was a priest," prosecutor Leah Bishop said in her closing argument Friday. "He groomed them. He knew what he was doing."
Evans' lawyer, Joseph Gavaldon, argued that Evans was a demonstrative man who often hugged his parishioners because he cared for them. Gavaldon said Evans' accusers were caught up in the national hysteria surrounding the priest-abuse scandal.
Evans, who is being held in Larimer County Jail without bail, faces trial on similar charges in Jefferson County on April 2.
Staff writer Monte Whaley can be reached at 720-929-0907 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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