Priest Guilty of Molesting Girl

By Nancie L. Katz
Daily News
February 6, 2003

A priest was convicted yesterday of molesting a 12-year-old girl when he showed up uninvited at her Brooklyn house to visit her sick grandmother.

Jurors took less than a day to find the Rev. Francis Nelson, 38, guilty of two counts of sexual abuse in the May 27, 1999, incident in Carroll Gardens.

Dressed in collar and cassock, Nelson did not react to the verdict in a courtroom packed with parishioners from his old parish, St. Mary Star of the Sea, and a Harlem church where he was placed afterward until charges were filed in May.

"I'm innocent, that's all," he told the Daily News afterward. "I'm not at all guilty."

Nelson, a visiting cleric from India, is the first priest to be convicted of molesting children in New York since the city dioceses turned over dozens of allegations of pedophilia to authorities last spring.

He faces up to a year in prison and could be deported after completing his sentence.

During the trial, the victim, now 16, tearfully recounted how Nelson arrived at her grandmother's home with gifts even after her mother, with whom she lived upstairs, told him not to come.

Once inside, he pulled her onto his lap while showing a photo album of his ordination in India, she said.

"He began pulling me into his groin area with his head against my back . . . breathing heavily and sweating," she testified.

After feeling under her bra, he released her and said, "Let's pray," she testified.

Nelson told jurors the girl only perched on his knee briefly to see the photos that he was showing her grandmother.

Nelson was a parish priest in Harlem, working with children, until May, when charges were filed.

The New York Archdiocese said Brooklyn officials did not tell them of the allegations, and in fact sent a recommendation letter. The Brooklyn Diocese insisted that a warning letter was sent in 1999.


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