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Priest Gets 4 Months In Sex Abuse of Girl, 12

Mar 26, 2003 | Newsday

A visiting priest from India was sentenced to 4 months in jail yesterday for molesting a Brooklyn girl during a 1999 sick call to her grandmother.

The Rev. Francis Nelson, 39, is the only priest convicted in the city in the Roman Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal. His case provided a graphic example of how the church transferred sex abusers from one diocese to another.

The Diocese of Brooklyn banished the visiting Nelson just after the abuse. But instead of returning to his native India, Nelson found employment in the Archdiocese of New York, where officials said that neither India nor Brooklyn church officials warned them about Nelson. At the time of his arrest, Nelson was working at a Harlem church.

Testimony during Nelson's February trial also indicated that the Diocese of Brooklyn misled authorities about Nelson's whereabouts last year, when the church released its files on abusive priests to local prosecutors.

Most of those alleged abuse incidents were too old to prosecute.

Nelson denied molesting the girl during his trial, but the victim testified that, while her ailing grandmother sat nearby in a wheelchair, the priest pulled her into his lap and pushed his genitals into her buttocks.

The Carroll Gardens girl, who was 12 at the time of the abuse, broke into tears on the stand as she also described how Nelson forced his hand under her bra.

Nelson was convicted of both sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a minor, both misdemeanors.

In statements yesterday, both District Attorney Charles J. Hynes and Diocesan spokesman Frank DeRosa said they hoped the sentencing brought closure.

"We're eager now to see the wounds begin to heal," DeRosa said.

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