Jury Clears Naugatuck Priest of Abuse Allegations

Associated Press, carried in Hartford Courant
January 17, 2009,0,4241890.story

WATERBURY, Conn. - A Roman Catholic priest from Naugatuck was cleared Friday of allegations that he sexually abused a teenage boy.

The Rev. Robert J. Grant's shoulders sagged in relief as the Waterbury Superior Court jury delivered its verdicts of "not guilty" on the 10 felony counts he faced in the case.

"Ask anybody who prayed for me to give gratitude to the Lord," he said after the verdict as he left the courthouse, where dozens of his supporters had attended days of testimony.

Grant, 65, was a priest for St. Mary's and St. Hedwig's churches in Naugatuck when a 15-year-old boy alleged he performed a sexual act on Grant.

The teen and his father had worked at St. Mary's, doing janitorial duties. The father had been fired about three months before the sex abuse allegations were made in 2007.

Grant's attorney, William St. John, suggested the teen and his father may have been motivated by money. The boy's father is suing the church over losing his job, and the boy testified that he intended to sue.

"No one has ever said they've seen (the teen) with Father Grant," St. John said.

Grant faced up to 20 years in prison if he had been convicted.

The Rev. John Gatzak, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Hartford, said Grant's acquittal would factor favorably into the decision on whether to return him to church duties.

Gatzak said Archbishop Henry J. Mansell is pleased with the verdict and reinstating Grant will be a high priority when a review board meets to discuss the matter.

"In light of this favorable verdict, he will be eligible for a priesthood assignment," Gatzak said. "We're delighted by the outcome of this case."


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