Ottawa priest found not guilty of sexually assaulting teen boy

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Stephen Amesse planning to return to ministry following verdict

CBC News

Posted: May 02, 2017 1:51 PM ETLast Updated: May 02, 2017 3:27 PM ET

By Kristy Nease, CBC News

Stephen Amesse, seen here in a photo posted on a blog in 2009, has been found not guilty of sexual assault and sexual interference involving a boy in 2008.

Stephen Amesse, seen here in a photo posted on a blog in 2009, has been found not guilty of sexual assault and sexual interference involving a boy in 2008. (From Archbishop Terrence Prendergast’s blog)

An Ottawa courtroom erupted in cheering and applause Tuesday when a judge found an Ottawa priest not guilty of sexually assaulting a then 14-year-old boy in 2008.

“This is not a cheering section,” Justice Martin James cautioned the dozens of people gathered to support Stephen Amesse, who in 2014 was charged with several counts of sexual assault and sexual interference involving a child under 16.

Amesse had so many supporters there that, just before the verdict was read, Crown attorney Fara Rupert had to clear some space for the complainant’s family to sit.

James told court Amesse met the boy — who cannot be identified — at Guardian Angels School, which is part of the Holy Spirit Parish in Stittsville, when the boy was in Grade 5.

Court heard the boy was big for his age, had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and had problems with the other children. Their family was active in the church and attended mass regularly.

Massages, shaving

The charges against Amesse related to two alleged incidents, including one at Amesse’s house. The boy had wanted to dig for historical artifacts behind Amesse’s house on a warm day, James told court.

In the boy’s version of the incident, James said, Amesse asked him if he wanted to have a shower after the digging. The boy agreed, and after, while the boy was wearing only a towel, Amesse came into the bathroom and showed him how to use a body hair shaver he had bought the boy as a gift. The boy said he took his towel off and that Amesse touched his genitals while using the shaver.

The boy alleged Amesse then gave him a 10-minute shoulder massage while the boy’s shirt was off and shorts were on. The boy’s father remembered him coming home with soaking wet hair, James added.

Amesse, meanwhile, said the boy did come over and did get a shaver for his interest in bodybuilding, but said the boy never took a shower. Amesse claimed he never gave the boy a massage or showed him how to use the shaver.

The second incident was alleged to have taken place at the rectory, James told court. The boy said he was sitting in a chair and got a shoulder massage from the priest after Amesse had given him some brandy.

Amesse said that incident never happened and that he never kept brandy, James told court.

Judge points out inconsistencies

In the end, James told court he was unable to determine conclusively what was truthful and what was not, and found the Crown had failed to prove its case against Amesse beyond a reasonable doubt.

James pointed out several inconsistencies between what the complainant testified during the trial and what he told police when he came forward, including how much money was contained in birthday and Christmas cards he received from Amesse — Amesse said it was always $50 bills, while the boy gave several amounts, the highest being $500 — how many times Amesse was alleged to have given him brandy, and more.

James also told court it was improbable that Amesse kissed the boy on the mouth openly at church and in front of the boy’s family. He also said it was improbable that Amesse had a framed picture of a naked man in his living room.

Some of the boy’s relatives cried after the verdict was read out and expressed shock at the cheers and applause. Amesse and defence lawyer Bob Carew, meanwhile, shook hands with some of the people gathered in the courtroom.

Son did ‘what was right,’ father says

“Despite the verdict [our son] has done what was right,” the victim’s father told reporters outside the courtroom after the verdict was read.

“We’re just glad the public is aware now,” he added.

Amesse was 56 when he was arrested in December 2014 following a police investigation that began in February that year, when the complainant was 19 years old.

“I just want everyone to know that I forgive my accuser,” Amesse said outside the courtroom Tuesday, his voice breaking.

Amesse was suspended from all ministry and his position as pastor at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Fallowfield after he was charged in 2014, his archdiocese said at the time.

Amesse said Tuesday he’ll be returning to active ministry.

9 Responses to Ottawa priest found not guilty of sexually assaulting teen boy

  1. M. Logan says:

    Justice for Fr. Steve!
    Everyone who knows him KNEW he was innocent.. he was the victim.
    Prayers he can get his life back.
    (“Robert”) and his family are liars.

    • Theresa says:

      Amen!!!!

    • Sylvia says:

      Your Catholic charity and compassion truly seem to know no bounds ML.

      • M. Logan says:

        Yours either, Sylvia.

      • Allie Ford says:

        There are so many good priests BUT the abusers are many as well. It’s hard for those of us who know priests who did terrible things to trust any priest now. So many churches are closing their doors…WHY…because so many of us can’t trust or respect the church … I will always side with those who were abused…I am confident THAT’s WHAT JESUS WOULD DO”

        I agree with your comment Sylvia …it’s the others right to their comments although I pray they think long and hard about the pain those young innocent boys and girls endured.

        God Bless us all!

        • Anne-Marie says:

          I pray that people would spend more time reading their bibles (not just listening to readings at church), the Word of God – and Jesus is the Word. What we should be praying about is for both parties, regardless of the circumstances. We spend too much time focusing on who is right and wrong, and behave like Pharasies. We need to pray for healing and for God to change the heart(s) of anyone not speaking the truth, as well as for healing. Never assume which side Jesus is on – this is not a correct teaching. We should not be holding onto anger, and if we cannot let it go, to ask God to change our hearts. Jesus died for us, for *our sins*. If we are to be like Jesus, then we are to forgive our neighbour, and turn the other cheek. Don’t let legalism take root in your hearts, as it affects what comes out of your mouths. There is power in the tongue, and we need to speak words of life and not death into the lives of those around us. Jesus was a friend of sinners – it says so in the bible. He used the most unlikely people (tax collector), he defended a woman from stoning (“Let he without sin cast the first stone”), and most importantly, the new covenant made through His death was one of Love, and He instructs us to love our neighbour. I pray that you are all see Jesus for what He is, what the bible says He is, and to know Him more deeply with each passing day. Please do not hold onto your pain, your anger, your negative thoughts, and/or your pride. Forgive as Jesus does, love as Jesus loves, and humbly ask God to change your hearts if anything needs to be changed – even when we think that there is nothing to change. I left the church years ago in my early 20s, for a ten year period, because of what I saw and experienced – gossip, anger, pride, untruthfulness. I wish I new then what I know now. We are human, we are not perfect, we are sinners, but we are all part of the body of Christ. If we are to function as such, we also need to sincerely pray for the healing of those that offend and hurt us, those that sin (sin is often a result of hurt). But we need to keep ourselves in check too – we need to own our thoughts and ask God for help. This is not weakness, this is strength and wisdom. If Jesus gave up His life, His *Life* for us – such a cost – then what cost is it in comparison for us to give up our negative thoughts and forgive our neighbour? God bless you all, God bless everyone involved, and those reading this blob or hearing/reading about it elsewhere. May God continue to change your hearts, may positive seeds take root in your hearts, and may words of life come from your lips
          – In the name of the Father, in the name of Jesus the Son, and in the name of our counsellor the Holy Spirit, who lives in us, Amen.

          • Baspuits says:

            On ne peut éviter de répéter nos erreurs du passé, jusqu’à ce qu’on comprennent pleinement comment tout ça s’est arrivé!
            We cannot avoid repeating the mistake of the past until we fully understand how all of this occurred!

            Baspuits

  2. Theresa says:

    And your moral compass is non existent Sylvia

  3. jebediah says:

    can’t cover up the guilty priests because one judge believed there were inxonsistencies against one priest. far too many guilty ones to worry about one let off as not guilty. Sylvias Site is important in exposing the guilty priests who some have admitted guilt. it’s a international problem with ripple effects. this judge better hope no more children come forward with more consistent stories. it appears this has happened in the past and the priest got exposed.

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