Man bolts from stand while testifying in sex trial

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Kingston Whig Standard

Tuesday, August 2, 2016 7:46:01 EDT PM

By Sue Yanagisawa, Kingston Whig-Standard

The first day of trial for a retired Roman Catholic priest, charged with sexually molesting a Kingston boy in the mid-1980s to early 1990s, ended early — and abruptly — Tuesday afternoon when the complainant bolted from the witness stand.

Superior Court Justice Wolfram Tausendfreund called a 15-minute break to allow the man, now in his early forties, to compose himself. But assistant Crown attorney Gerard Laarhuis subsequently requested the court recess for the day and resume Wednesday.

“He’s in a rather distraught mood,” Laarhuis explained to the judge.

The retired priest, Robyn Quinton Gwyn, 68, is charged with two counts of sexually assaulting the complainant when he was an adolescent and young teen; touching him when he was under 14 for a sexual purpose; sexually exploiting a position of trust; and invitation to sexual touching.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Gwyn’s accuser told the judge that his family moved to Kingston when he was six or seven years old after his physically abusive, alcoholic father died.

The move didn’t improve the family’s lot, however: his mother discovered “harder drugs” in Kingston, he testified, and became even more abusive than his father.

Most of the time, he said, there was no food in the house and his mother spent every cent she got on her substance abuse.

He told Justice Tausendfreund he was removed from her care several times by the Children’s Aid Society but “I was a bit of a challenge to place: I had hygiene issues, learning disabilities. I’d run away a lot.”

And during those periods when he was living with his mother, he said, “I always had a cover story to explain the marks on my body.”

He told the judge his mother coached him that, if he was questioned about his bruises, he was to claim that he’d been in a fight with another boy.

The ruse worked, he suggested, until one day his school principal insisted on taking him out into the neighbourhood so he could point out the home of the boy he’d fought. The witness said: “I pointed out the nun’s garage — that was a problem.”

He recalled being the daily brunt of jokes at school because “I was that kid: I didn’t have the right clothes, I smelled.”

It was against that background that he claims he first met Gwyn.

He told told Justice Tausendfreund that he believes their initial contact was around the time of his confirmation, between Grade 7 and Grade 8. “He was assisting in that process with the French-speaking kids,” the man recalled.

He said Gwyn also had some involvement with local sports that brought them into contact and “I knew he was someone I could talk to.”

Under questioning by Crown prosecutor Laarhuis, the man disclosed that his family wasn’t religious and didn’t regularly attend Sunday mass. But he was taught in school that priests had the power to forgive, and believed it came directly from God, which made them pretty special.

He described the relationship he had with Gwyn as developing into something “creepy.” But at the time, he said, “I was a kid who was starving for attention, guidance, direction.”

In those days, he said, Gwyn had an office in Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School, “in the main building at Regi, next to the Panther pit.”

He told the judge that the priest heard confessions from students in his office and said “he was very interested in whether I had any impure thoughts.”

When the question was first posed to him, Gwyn’s accuser said Gwyn had to explain to him what “impure” actually meant.

At that time, as well, there were regularly scheduled masses — every two weeks, he thought — that he said students were required to attend and “in order to have communion, you have to confess,” he told the judge. He believed confession was compulsory.

“I believed the priest had a direct line to God,” he told the judge.

And equally powerful, he said, Gwyn “invested himself,” spending individual time with him, taking him on outings and, on at least two occasions, to see movies.

After the priest began to engage him in masturbation and performed oral sex on him, he said, he remembers asking: “Will we go to hell?”

He told Justice Tausendfreund that Gwyn told him it was OK as long as I did it with him.

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