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Ex-Priest Faces Ninth Charge Of Sex Abuse

Sep 4, 2002 | St. Petersburg Times

As a boy in the early 1980s, he told grownups repeatedly that his priest had molested him.

He told his psychiatrist. He told a school nurse. He told his family.

No one told police.

The boy's family would not believe him, and made him confront the priest after services one Sunday. Not to accuse him, but to apologize.

It took two decades, three other accusers and eight capital sexual battery charges against Richard A. Pollard before the boy, now a man, convinced his family and authorities of the abuse he alleges he endured at age 8.

Police on Tuesday charged Pollard, 73, with a ninth count of capital sexual battery. The former Tarpon Springs priest has been in Pinellas County Jail since his arrest on eight similar charges Aug. 8. If convicted, he faces a life sentence for each count.

"It's sad," Tarpon Springs police Sgt. Jeff Young said. "This kid has been living inside his own internal bars since the incident happened."

Pollard's attorney, Charles H. Scruggs, had not heard of the latest charge Tuesday, and therefore said he could not comment on it.

The latest accuser came forward after his family read newspaper reports of the allegations against Pollard and finally believed that Pollard was capable of such abuse, police said.

The man told police Pollard first molested him sometime between November 1979 and November 1980 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Tarpon Springs, after Bible study.

Pollard was supposed to drive the boy home from the church at 1700 Keystone Road. Instead, he took him to a church office and said he would do "something nice" for him, police said in an arrest affidavit. Pollard fondled and performed oral sex on the child, police said, then told him not to tell his parents or anyone else.

For four years, the alleged victim tried to avoid the priest, he told police. In about 1983, when the boy was 12, Pollard molested him again at the priest's home at 1502 Poinsettia Lane, police said.

Pollard invited the boy over for a swim, then abused him again, police said. Police said they cannot charge Pollard in that incident because the statute of limitations has run out.

"I just wanted to go swimming," the man told police last week.

After the incidents, he developed behavior problems, ran away and repeatedly threatened suicide, he told police.

"He really feels like Pollard ruined his life," said Tarpon Springs Detective Barbara Templeton, who is investigating the case.

The man's parents got him psychiatric help and sent him to a different school. Both the psychiatrist and a school nurse told them what the boy had said, but like a lot of parents, they could not accept it, police said.

"Now, of course, they are distraught," Templeton said.

Their reaction was typical, said agent Al Danna of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

"It's human nature," said Danna, who has investigated some of the previous allegations against Pollard. "Parents, even with overwhelming evidence, don't want to believe it."

Current state law requires psychiatrists and school personnel to report suspected abuse to the Department of Children and Families hotline.

The man is the fourth to accuse Pollard.

The first reported the abuse to the Episcopal church in 1995. Pollard agreed to pay for counseling for the man and never to serve as a priest again, but police were not notified until the man approached them this July.

By then, two other men had come forward to say that Pollard fondled them when they were teenagers in the early 1970s. Police could not charge Pollard in those incidents, but plan to use the men as witnesses. They also are looking for any other potential victims.

Police arrested Pollard on eight counts in two counties in the incidents involving the first accuser, who was molested beginning at age 6. That accuser, as part of the investigation, confronted Pollard wearing a hidden recorder. Pollard admitted to molesting the boy, Danna said.

Pollard is married, has three grown children and was living at 4601 Floramar Ter. in New Port Richey at the time of his arrest.

He served as a priest in three counties. From 1969 to 1974, he was the vicar at St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church in Zephyrhills. From 1969 to 1974, he served at St. Andrew's Church in Tampa. He then moved to All Saints Episcopal Church in Tarpon Springs, where he served until his retirement in 1992.

The Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida also did not know about the latest allegations against Pollard, said spokesman Jim DeLa. That diocese has had to deal with misconduct complaints about three priests - Pollard and two others now serving in Mississippi and North Carolina - in the past year, he said.

"We've been kind of flabbergasted," he said.

At All Saints, the most recent alleged victim did not notify the church before telling police, said the Rev. Frank C. Creamer. No others have come forward, either, he said.

The allegations against Pollard shocked the close-knit congregation of about 500, he said. Many parishioners remember Pollard, and some families have belonged to the church for decades. Since the allegations, attendance has dropped.

"It is a nightmare," Creamer said. "They're disillusioned."

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