Ex-Priest on Trial Denies Sex Charges
Jury Told He Was Trying to Help Girl

By Jason Riley
The Courier-Journal [Louisville KY]
September 3, 2004

Bruce Ewing told a Jefferson County jury yesterday that he never had sex with a teenage girl who was part of a "very dysfunctional family" that he was helping as a newly ordained priest 30 years ago.

Standing trial on charges of raping and sodomizing Janet Goodner, a former student at the St. Vincent de Paul parish's school, Ewing testified that his only relationship with the teen was as a friend and priest. Ewing said he was "very much aware" of Goodner's age.

His testimony came one day after Goodner told the jury that she had a consensual relationship with Ewing in the mid-1970s - starting when she was 14 - while Ewing was a priest at St. Vincent de Paul Church.

She testified that they started having sex when she was 15 and broke up two years later when she learned that Ewing - who was then in his late 20s - was dating an older teenager.

Goodner came forward in 2002 when she filed a civil lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville for failing to take sufficient steps to deal with sexual abuse by priests.

She reached an undisclosed settlement through mediation a year later.

David Lambertus, Ewing's attorney, has said that Goodner came forward only when the news broke about the sexual abuse lawsuits being filed.

Ewing, who left the priesthood in 1977 and was an aide to two Louisville governmental officials, has repeatedly denied Goodner's accusations. He reiterated those denials on the stand yesterday.

The court seats behind Ewing were filled with his friends and former colleagues - including former Alderman Steve Magre, his one-time boss - who all testified on his behalf. They described Ewing as a caring and friendly man who was well-liked and trusted.

Prosecutors have presented Ewing as a priest who cursed, drank and used his position of power to sexually prey on a teenage girl.

But Ewing said that did not happen. He testified that Goodner was one of several youths who hung around him, talking and listening to music in his apartment in the rectory, during his years at the church.

She was a young girl in a struggling family who needed help, he said.

"I tried to help anybody who needed help," he said.

Ewing said he helped her find a place to stay after she was kicked out of her home and he assisted her in finding a job.

Ewing said Goodner visited him twice after he left the priesthood, and she never accused him of any wrongdoing.

Both sides will present their closing arguments this morning.

If he is convicted of third-degree rape and two counts of third-degree sodomy, Ewing could be sentenced to as many as 15 years in prison.

Source: The Courier-Journal



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