FREEHOLD – Under the cloud of sexual abuse allegations for pretty much three a long time, the former longtime pastor of St. Veronica R.C. Church in Howell walked out of the Monmouth County Courthouse Friday after a decide acquitted him of the prices, and claimed he will continue on to pray for his accuser.
Immediately after Top-quality Court Choose Ellen Torregrossa-O’Connor located the 80-year-aged priest not responsible of a few counts of sexual assault on a baby a lot more than two many years back, the Rev. Henry Brendan Williams reported he was “certainly pretty relieved’’ by the verdict.
“I continue to pray for the accuser,’’ Williams included, talking exterior the courtroom.
“I really feel really compassionate toward her, the problems she’s experienced heading on for numerous a long time,” the priest reported. “I do maintain her in prayer, and her spouse and children as well. I just pray for the complete household.’’
“I haven’t had far too lots of purchasers in my job pray for the individuals who are building accusations towards them,” claimed Williams’ legal professional, Robert Konzelmann, a veteran protection legal professional who reported he is retiring upon the summary of this situation.
The accuser and her parents still left the courtroom just before the choose completed rendering her verdict.
Thomas Fichter, assistant Monmouth County prosecutor, declined to comment afterward.
The accuser, a 34-year-outdated Colts Neck lady with multiple mental issues, came forward in 2018 with allegations that Williams, a near family good friend, molested her on 3 occasions in the late-1990s, when she was a kid
Williams, who was pastor of St. Veronica from 1979 right up until his retirement in 2012, was billed with molesting the boy or girl at the Shrimp Box restaurant in Position Enjoyable Beach front, sometime among May and September 1998, when the accuser was 11 once again at her household for the duration of a meal bash afterwards that fall and yet again for the duration of an anniversary party at the Crystal Level Inn in Level Enjoyable someday concerning March 1999 and February 2000, when she was 12.
Williams chose to have the decide relatively than a jury decide the case.
Torregrossa-O’Connor, delivering an nearly 3-hour verbal feeling to guidance her verdict, explained the point out did not prove the allegations past a fair question, and specially didn’t show specifically when the alleged incidents happened or what the accuser’s age was at the time.
Less than New Jersey regulation, to acquire a conviction, the point out would have had to show that the accuser was younger than 13 at the time of the incidents and that Williams, when at minimum 4 many years more mature than her, touched her intimate parts to degrade or humiliate her or for his personal sexual gratification, the judge explained.
Critical and central to a conviction was “not just whether just about every of these offenses transpired, it is when they occurred and whether or not (the accuser) was under the age of 13,” the choose explained.
When the accuser informed a detective she may well have been as aged as 14 when just one of the incidents occurred, the detective acted surprised and informed her she was almost certainly 12, because she wouldn’t have been downstairs amongst company in her dwelling in her pajamas if she have been older, the judge famous.
Meanwhile, the victim testified she was wearing basketball shorts, not pajamas, all through that incident, the decide said.
Torregrossa-O’Connor cited inconsistencies about the timing of the incidents, thoughts about why the accuser waited so extended to occur ahead and her refusal to identify the man or woman to whom she 1st discovered her allegations — between issues that undermined the state’s case.
She also cited testimony by a forensic psychiatrist that the accuser’s psychological overall health issues, such as obsessive compulsive condition and anorexia nervosa, would make her prone to recommendation, memory problems, misinterpreting functions and confabulation, or creating up matters that are untrue and believing they are correct.
“I would not and did not dismiss her testimony only mainly because she suffers from those people problems,” the decide claimed, whilst adding that the accuser testified “bravely.”
Whilst Williams, when questioned by detectives in 2019, reported he remembered offering the accuser an affectionate squeeze on the leg though getting evening meal with her and her household at the Shrimp Box and afterwards creating her a letter of apology after discovering she was offended by it, the choose claimed she could not discover further than a reasonable question that he did that for sexual gratification.
Also lending question to the situation had been surprise witnesses who arrived forward after studying an article in the Asbury Park Press about the accuser’s testimony at the trial. The surprise witnesses, a married few who are retired schoolteachers, testified they both equally worked at the Shrimp Box in the late 1990s and said there were no tablecloths on the tables in the casual eatery, the judge mentioned.
That contradicted the accuser’s testimony that extensive tablecloths hid Williams’ molestation of her throughout the supper there with her mothers and fathers, brother and Williams. The accuser’s father testified the Shrimp Box was a extravagant cafe with table-to-flooring tablecloths.
Detectives did not bother to investigate whether the restaurant had tablecloths or other aspects to corroborate the accuser’s allegations, but primarily based their scenario on her statements and that of her mom and dad, the choose said.
“The court docket is basically still left with much more questions than solutions as to what took place at the Shrimp Box,’’ Torregrossa-O’Conner said. “I am remaining with an sincere uncertainty as to what happened.”
She reported the accuser’s account that Williams molested her with one hand underneath the tablecloth whilst feeding on a buttered roll with the other as her loved ones sat at the exact same table in a active cafe “is somewhat curious,” and it “would be incredibly brazen” for an abuser to decide this kind of a crowded location to molest a person.
“Is it probable?” the judge questioned. “Of program. Has the state proven that happened beyond a sensible question? No, I can’t say that. The inconsistencies in testimony just further undermine that confidence.
“There are also various unanswered questions,” Torregrossa-O’Connor reported. “I am also troubled by the two-decade delay (in reporting the alleged abuse.)”
The fact that the accuser did not inform detectives about the second and third alleged incidents of molestation when she arrived forward with the very first allegation lent further more doubt to the situation, the decide claimed.
Williams and his legal professional credited the electrical power of prayer with the consequence of the circumstance, such as that the two surprise witnesses go through about the scenario 1,000 miles away and felt compelled to come to courtroom to testify on the priest’s behalf.
“All the prayers, people who have been calling in and telling us that they are with us in prayer – without having that, the last pair of several years would have been a true torment,” Williams explained.
Now that the situation is more than, Williams reported he ideas to shift to his native Ireland.
Kathleen Hopkins, a reporter in New Jersey given that 1985, handles crime, courtroom conditions, authorized challenges, unsolved mysteries and just about each main murder trial to strike Monmouth and Ocean counties. Contact her at [email protected]