The visiting Polish priest accused of forcing himself on a 17-year-old parishioner, returned to court Thursday for the first time since his Dec. 26 arraignment before some 30 onlookers, including supporters who posted his bail and a woman who drove two days to rally support for the victim.
Kramek, 40, a reported member of the Polish Roman Catholic clergy, was arrested shortly before he was to hold Christmas Eve Mass at Sacred Heart Church, 158 Broad St. Police charged Kramek with second-degree sexual assault for forcing the New Britain High School student to have sex with him while he was counseling her on a previous sexual assault.
The defense entered formal not guilty pleas in court although police took a signed confession from Kramek admitting to the alleged Dec. 18 incident.
The state requested that Kramek’s case be transferred to the Part A court, where crimes of a more serious nature are handled.
Scott Murphy, state’s attorney, also asked for the defense to disclose the address where Kramek has been residing since members of the city’s Polish community raised $50,000 to cover the $500,000 court-imposed bond on Jan. 17.
However, Kramek’s current residence is not being released to the public.
The court indicated the visiting priest surrendered his passport in compliance with posting bond and Judge Susan Handy issued a no-contact order with the victim.
Many members of Sacred Heart Church and local residents, who are continuing to assist Kramek with legal fees, gathered around the priest who they say deserves their backing because he leads them spiritually.
“He is a priest. He teaches people about God and about the good life and deserves the benefit of the doubt,” said city resident Gena Koprek. “I’m very interested to see what happens here and watch how people handle this case.”
Several Kramek supporters continued to denounce Kramek’s confession alleging the Polish-speaking priest was not made aware of his rights nor did he understand the seriousness of the accusations.
Kramek, who was assisted by a Polish interpreter in court, admitted to the sexual assault while being interrogated by a Polish-speaking detective who lived in Poland as a youth.
Yet, those advocating for the victim said they hoped their presence would fill the void of the victim, who did not attend Thursday’s pre-trial proceedings.
“I’m hoping that my energy of love, support and truth will fill the court room for the victim,” said Ann Slowey, CEO of American Intermestic Clergy Crime Consulting, of Bethel Park, Pa. “Having people going around slandering her for being trusting of someone who she though was in a moral position is the worst kind of betrayal.”
Slowey started her not-for-profit organization 15 years ago to help assist victims of assault, abuse, neglect and betrayal by leaders of religious communities. She said she drove two days from her Pittsburgh home to show the victim she was not alone and many people support and commend her brave actions.
“We reach out to everyone of all faiths because it is the greatest abuse of power to hurt someone physically or emotionally and hide behind these crimes in the name of religion,” Slowey said. “I’ve seen hundreds, maybe thousands of similar cases since we began and its difficult and the victims need people standing behind them.”
At least one city residents who attended court and offered silent support of the victim did not want her name published.
“I think this is an intelligent person who knew better than to do anything like this,” said the onlooker who would not disclose her name. “I don’t care what kind of good work he was doing, if this is true it is wrong.”
Slowey reported she has been in contact with several similar organizations and said she and others will attempt to attend Kramek’s future court appearances and intend to follow the case.
Kramek is due back in court Feb. 28.