2003-05-02 / Front Page

Priest Found Not Guilty In Abuse Case

Priest Found Not Guilty In Abuse Case

A Queens jury has acquitted a Catholic priest who was visiting New York from Africa, of charges of groping and fondling a 12-year-old boy on the beach and in a restaurant on Beach 116 Street in Rockaway.

The Reverend Peter Kiarie, who was visiting Queens from Kenya, insisted in sworn testimony last week that he never touched the boy.

The unidentified youth, whose mother met the priest at a church in Woodside and arranged the Father’s day trip to Rockaway beach, had testified that Kiarie molested him on the beach, in a restaurant and in a grocery store on Beach 116 Street last year.

In his closing statement to the jury, Kiarie’s attorney, Salvatore Canonico, argued that the beach would have been crowded on Father’s Day and that it was unbelievable that nobody else on the beach noticed the sexual attack.

"Justice was served," Canonico told reporters after the verdict was in. "I think that we had a very intelligent jury. They decided that my client was more credible than that young boy."

In dismissing the jury, Judge Michael Aloise told Kiarie, "Only you know if justice was served here. I wish you good luck."

The jury of three men and three women deliberated for three hours after the two-day trial before coming out with the "not guilty" verdict.

Prosecutors declined to comment on the verdict.

Kiarie told reporters that he was going to return to Kenya "as soon as possible."

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