Priest Disputes Accuser's Testimony

By Jonathan Shugarts
January 15, 2009

WATERBURY The Rev. Robert J. Grant took the stand Wednesday in Waterbury Superior Court to defend himself against charges of sexually assaulting a teenager.

The teenager, known as "C.R." in court proceedings, testified this week that the 65-year-old Grant told him to drink wine and paid him for massages and sex in 2006 and 2007 when the boy was 15. Grant is on administrative leave from his pastoral duties at St. Mary's and St. Hedwig's churches in Naugatuck.

He denied on Wednesday that he had any sexual relations with the teenager, testifying that he offered to take a polygraph test when he was initially confronted by police with the teen's allegations.

"I immediately denied it categorically," Grant said. "I pleaded with them to give me a lie detector test."

Grant wore a gray suit with a white shirt and no necktie for his testimony.

Two rows of courtroom seats were packed with Grant's supporters, some of whom fingered rosary beads as they listened to their spiritual guide testify.

Before he became a priest in 1993, Grant attended college in Cincinnati. He later sold real estate and insurance in New Orleans, spent a year in a monastery in Little Rock, Ark., and worked in a retail store in Fairfax, Va., he said.

Eventually, he moved to Connecticut, where he began seminary school in 1988, graduating in 1992, and finally joined St. Mary's in 2005.

The teenager and his father, a former maintenance man for St. Mary's, spent Sundays cleaning the church and doing janitorial work. Grant testified he was in the church on days when C.R. was doing the chores with his father, but he denied any sexual contact with the boy.

The teen's father, known as "H.R." in court proceedings, was fired from the church in March 2007; about three months later police relieved the sexual assault complaint against Grant. The teen's father has filed a lawsuit against the church claiming he was terminated without cause.

Grant said he was satisfied with H.R.'s work until March 2007, when he received a complaint that dust had accumulated in parts of the church. Keeping a calm, even tone during his testimony, Grant said he confronted H.R. about three maintenance items.

"He started to raise his voice and become belligerent and said, 'I'll do it my own way,'" Grant said. "I said, 'You're fired.'"

H.R. testified this week that he believed Grant fired him not because of his attitude at work, but because he confronted the priest about what he believed was done to his son.

The teen told Naugatuck detectives he was 15 when he performed oral sex on Grant in a room behind the church's altar. The teen testified that Grant paid the boy $100 for each sexual encounter, peeling the cash from a wad of bills held together with a silver money clip.

Grant's attorney, William St. John, called a list of witnesses on Wednesday who worked with Grant or were church parishioners. All said they never saw him with that money clip.

Janet Conroy, a church employee, said Grant was a "truthful" person who took a "hands off" policy when it came to the church's youth.

"I believe Father Grant is the most spiritual person I ever met," Conroy said, fighting back tears.

Attorneys are expected to make closing arguments today.


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