Surprise Witness Testifies in Case against Catholic Diocese

Burlington Free Press
November 29, 2007

A surprise witness in the lawsuit brought a Virginia man who claims he was molested by a Vermont priest in 1977 told the jury Thursday that the same priest performed a sex act on him during a children's sleepover at a Burlington church two years earlier.

"I woke up sometime in the night to somebody who was touching me," the witness said.

"Who was that somebody," asked Jerome O'Neill, a lawyer for James Turner of Virginia Beach, Va., who says he was molested by the Rev. Alfred Willis in a roomful of sleeping friends and family members at a Latham, N.Y. motel in 1977.

"It was Al Willis," the witness answered. The man's name was provided to the jury but according to O'Neill he has asked not to have his name released publicly. The Free Press does not disclose the names of victims of alleged sex crimes without their permission.

The witness, who was 15 at the time of the incident at St. Anthony's Catholic Church, said he did not tell anyone afterward about what Willis allegedly did because he was scared.

"I kind of felt like 'you did something wrong,' that it was my fault," the witness said. He said later that Willis garnered the nickname of "Deacon Al, your bedtime pal." Willis was a deacon at St. Anthony's and later was ordained as a priest.


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