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Kenyan priest acquitted of abuse in Woodside church

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A Catholic priest visiting from Kenya was acquitted last week of charges he had molested a Woodside boy during a day trip to the Rockaways last year.

A jury of three men and three women last Thursday found the Rev. Peter Kiarie not guilty on all counts of sexual abuse, groping and endangering the welfare of a child, a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. He could have faced two years in prison if convicted.

"I feel that justice was done," said Kiarie's attorney, Salvatore Canonico. "We had a very intelligent jury that saw through the false allegations of the young man for whatever reasons he gave them."

Brown's spokeswoman declined to comment on the verdict.

The jury delivered its decision after deliberating for four hours at the end of the trial that lasted three days. The only major witnesses called to the stand were Kiarie and his accuser, a now 13-year-old boy from Woodside.

"Father Kiarie, only you know if justice was served here," Queens Supreme Court Justice Michael Aloise said after the jury gave its ruling. "I wish you a lot of luck."

Kiarie, a member of the Holy Ghost Fathers order in Ireland, had arrived in the United States June 11 and was staying at the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians Church on 48th Avenue in Woodside as he waited to begin a fund-raising drive across the country.

The missionary priest from Kenya had taken the then 12-year-old boy on a trip to Rockaway Beach last Father's Day with the permission of his family, church members whom Kiarie befriended during his first five days staying there, law enforcement sources said at the time of his arrest.

But the boy had alleged that Kiarie had sexually abused him during the sojourn by groping him, sexually touching him and kissing him.

"They had no corroborative evidence," Canonico said. "It was the word of the young man against the word of the priest. Nobody ever saw what happened."

The priest's passport was returned to him Friday, and he was expected to fly home to Kenya in the coming week, Canonico said.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:04 pm, October 10, 2011
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