'Hermit Nun' Takes Abuse Allegations to a New Level

By Shaun Sutner
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
August 4, 2007

A Brookfield woman who accused a Trappist monk of sexually assaulting her, only to see the 84-year-old monk found not guilty in court, has appealed a decision of the state Board of Bar Overseers that there was no cause to discipline the lawyer who handled the case from District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr.'s office.

Keri M. Burnor, who considers herself a "hermit nun," complained to the board in May that Assistant District Attorney Anthony J. Marotta did not properly or effectively prosecute the state's 2003 case against the late Rev. Joseph Chu-Cong, a monk at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer.

Ms. Burnor said that she has forgiven the monk, who has since died, and does not want to sue the monastery, but

maintained that Mr. Marotta was too eager to cooperate with the defense.

"How do I get justice? By having (Mr. Marotta) prevented from practicing law in the state of Massachusetts," she said. "I am disheartened with the process. I'm upset with the Board of Bar Overseers because I feel they swept this whole thing under the rug."

Ms. Burnor said she was dissatisfied with the prosecution of the case under former District Attorney John J. Conte, whom Mr. Early succeeded in January. Mr. Marotta is a carryover from Mr. Conte's staff.

Now, she says, the new district attorney has been uncooperative with her, yet eager to inform a local weekly newspaper, the New Leader of Spencer, last month, when the bar overseers found no fault with Mr. Marotta.

"I am even more upset with our district attorney, who I was hoping would be a change," she said.

The 31-year-old woman, who practices solitude and prayer, said she believes she has been recognized as a nun by the Worcester Diocese, citing a fundraising letter addressed to her as "Sister" by Bishop Robert J. McManus.

Raymond Delisle, a spokesman for the Diocese, said she may refer to herself as a nun, but that she is not listed as one in the official diocesan directory or by any established order. The bishop's use of the title in his letter was simply a courtesy, he said.

"Evidently she's a self-proclaimed hermit," he said.

On July 24, the board notified Ms. Burnor that Mr. Marotta "handled the matter on behalf of the commonwealth competently and appropriately."

Sarah A. Chambers, the assistant bar counsel who looked into the complaint, also said that Ms. Burnor had misunderstood the bar overseers' role and also was under the misperception that she was Mr. Marotta's client. He really represented the state, and several of the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct that Ms. Burnor cited did not apply to this situation, she said.

"Some of the issues you now raise were decided in another forum over four years ago" Ms. Chambers wrote.

Jennifer Nadeau, a spokeswoman for Mr. Early, noted that the bar overseers had found Mr. Marotta's prosecution of the case appropriate. She also said that the district attorney's office's contact with the New Leader was "just following up on a story" the paper had previously published about the case.

"While the district attorney is sensitive to Ms. Burnor's disappointment in the outcome of the criminal case, he is equally sensitive to unfounded allegations against reputable prosecutors," Ms. Nadeau said. "Such unfounded allegations do nothing but harm innocent people and needlessly undermine public confidence in our justice system."

On Aug. 1, Ms. Burnor wrote Ms. Chambers to request an independent review of her complaint.

She alleged that Mr. Marotta changed the trial date to prevent a witness from testifying on her behalf, and that Mr. Marotta failed to tell her before she testified that a plea bargain had been offered by the defense.

In another letter appealing the board's decision, on Aug. 2, Ms. Burnor complained that Ms. Chambers, the bar counsel, failed to interview her supporting witnesses, a priest in the Worcester Diocese, and her twin sister, Kristi Seymour.

Ms. Burnor originally accused Rev. Chu-Cong of touching her breast during a counseling session on Aug. 23, 2001.

She was not the first woman to have accused the monk of sexual assault. Another victim told state police investigators that about a decade earlier Rev. Chu-Cong had grabbed her breast and squeezed it, according to a state police report on the investigation into the alleged assault against Ms. Burnor.

Contact Shaun Sutner by e-mail at


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