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Hindu priest convicted in sex abuse of teen

Mokesh Narine Prashad, 36, a husband and a father of...

By Jennifer Warren

A respected Hindu priest from Woodhaven with a dedicated following was convicted last week of sexually abusing a 19-year-old parishioner of the Gopal Temple in Richmond Hill in 1999 where he served.

Mokesh Narine Prashad, 36, a husband and a father of two, was found guilty of two counts of sexual abuse after a young woman told authorities she had been drugged and assaulted in his home on Feb. 25, 1999, said Mary de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney.

The jury deliberated last Thursday and returned with a verdict after about five hours, said Betsy Herzog, another DA spokeswoman.

In court the woman, now 21, testified that she went to the priest’s home at 97-44 95th St.. to seek counseling. at her mother’s suggestion When she arrived the priest, instructed her to remove her blouse so he could perform a reading, according to testimony at the jury trial. Prashad had her lie on the floor and he rubbed her with alcohol and salt, after which he told her to kneel at a table where he questioned her about sex, prosecutors said.

When the woman attempted to leave, she said she was given a glass of juice that made her dizzy, the testimony showed. When she got up to use the bathroom, Prashad grabbed her by the hair, pulled her into the bathroom, groped and slapped her, the woman testified. The woman told the court she next remembered waking up naked on a bed with him next to her.

State Supreme Court Judge Ronald Hollie, who presided over the two-week jury trial scheduled the sentencing for April 20 when Prashad will face up to seven years in prison for the conviction.

Assistant DA John Carroll said his case rested on four key pieces of evidence: emergency room medical records corroborating the woman’s physical condition; Prashad’s written testimony — parts of which the prosecutor was able to disprove; subpoenaed telephone records between the defendant’s and the woman’s home, which also disprove Prashad’s account of events; and the 911 tape of the woman calling for help.

“The 911 tape speaks for itself,” Carroll said of the tape that he played for the jurors. “It’s really compelling evidence.”

But Prashad and his attorney, Anthony Colleluori, maintain that the assault did not take place.

“It never occurred,” Colleluori said. “There’s no physical proof of it and she had a lot of reasons to lie.”

Colleluori would not expand upon the woman’s motives for making what he contended were false allegations.

Before the jury received its final pre-deliberation instructions last Thursday, Prashad made his way silently and somber-faced down the hallway to the fifth-floor courtroom in the Kew Gardens courthouse. The hallway was lined with his family and friends who had been present throughout the trial. And they insisted Prashad was the victim.

“We knew him since he was a kid. He is a good man,” said Jerry Singh, a self-described follower of the priest.

“He was framed,” said Jean Singh. “There was no blood, no drug, no semen, no sperm. No nothing. It’s just that she cried ‘rape,’” she said.

Jerry Singh said he believed the woman wanted to discredit the priest because he was vibrant, powerful, and well-respected with a large community of parishioners.

“They want to stultify his progress,” Singh said.

Carroll, however, said his case was a strong one. Among his witnesses was Prashad’s own wife whose testimony conflicted with her husband’s written statement.

Reach reporter Jennifer Warren by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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