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Hindu priest convicted of abusing teenage girl

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A Woodhaven Hindu priest has been sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing a 19-year-old woman member of his religious congregation who visited the cleric’s home seeking his counsel.

“This crime caused much pain and humiliation to the victim and was a terrible betrayal of trust by a religious figure,” said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown following the sentencing in Kew Gardens Monday.

“The victim went to him for counseling at her mother’s suggestion and instead of giving her comfort and guidance, the defendant humiliated and attacked her sexually, apparently using a drug as his weapon,” Brown said.

Mokesh Narine Prashad, 36, of 97-44 95th St. in Woodhaven, the leader of a Hindu congregation in Richmond Hill, was convicted of two counts of sexual abuse after a two-week jury trial before State Supreme Court Justice Ronald Hollie. The judge sentenced Prashad to a three-year prison term Monday.

Assistant District Attorney John Carroll asked the judge to sentence Prashad to seven years in jail, calling the priest a “predator.”

Prashad contended from the time he was arrested that he was innocent.

According to testimony at the trial, the young woman went to the priest’s house for guidance on Feb. 25, 1999. She testified that when she arrived, the priest told her to remove her shirt so he could do what he called a “reading.”" She said he then told her to lie down on the floor and rubbed her with alcohol and salt. She told the court that he asked her to kneel at a table and began asking her questions about sex.

According to the testimony, the young woman jumped up from the table and grabbed her shirt, whereupon the priest told her to calm down and gave her a glass of juice to drink.

The young woman testified that she became dizzy after drinking the juice and got up to go to the bathroom. She said the defendant grabbed her by her hair and pulled her into the bathroom, forcibly pushing her to a wall, grabbing her breasts and other areas of her body and slapping her.

The woman testified that the next thing she remembered was awakening naked on a bed with the priest next to her. She told the jurors that she jumped from the bed and ran into a nearby store, where the owner telephoned police.

Defense Attorney Anthony Colleluori presented during the trial a stack of letters of support of Prashad from members of his congregation.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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