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Accused former priest testifies in own defence

Warning: The following story contains graphic testimony of a sexual nature that could be upsetting to some readers.

Phillip Jacobs took the stand in his own defence Monday afternoon by explaining how, when he was a young priest in Columbus, Ohio, he took teenage boys on overnight trips, intent on teaching them how to masturbate.

 

“The goal was for the person to become normal with this physiological act under my direction,” Jacobs, 63, told Justice J. Miriam Gropper during questioning by his defence lawyer Chris Considine. “I would ask them what they know about their bodies ... whether they were curious ... eventually, if I could get some sense of curiosity, I would ask ‘How much do you trust me? Can I explain it?’”

Jacobs said there were at least three, maybe more, teenage boys he took on these 18-hour “packages,” that included golf, swimming, fishing, pool, dinner and TV in the mid-1970s.

Eventually the Catholic Diocese of Columbus received complaints regarding these trips, and the church sent Jacobs to the Institute of Living in Hartford, Conn., where he underwent a nine-month counselling program.

In addition to regular therapy there, Jacobs told the court about sitting in on group therapy sessions involving sexual assault victims.

“There was clearly some part of me that knew (my) actions … had been harmful, but there was another part of me that was seeking to rationalize it,” Jacobs said.

He told the court how it was during these “painful” sessions that he realized the gravity of what he’d done. “You can’t go back and you can’t undo (what you’ve done,)” Jacobs said, wiping tears from his eyes.

Jacobs began his testimony by outlining his sexual history as a teenager and young adult.

He told the court about feeling bullied by fellow classmates into committing “the sin of self abuse” at age 15, as it was a major topic of conversation among male students at his Catholic high school in Columbus.

After earning a master’s degree in theology from University of Innsbruck in Austria, he returned to Ohio as a 26-year-old, where he ultimately had a series of inappropriate experiences with teenage boys.

“There was some part of me that had never gotten past being 15 years of age.  I had become focused on this first experience of masturbation,” he said. “There was a part of me that was still acting like I was back in high school.”

Jacobs is charged with sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference of a person under 14 and touching a young person for a sexual purpose.

The charges involve three minors under the age of 14, with alleged incidents spanning September 1996 to June 2001, all within Saanich.

He resigned from his post at St. Joseph the Worker parish in Saanich in 2002 after the incidents from Ohio came to light.

Jacobs' testimony was expected to continue Tuesday.

Charge remains

Earlier in the day Monday, Considine asked Justice Gropper to acquit Jacobs of the single count of touching a young person for a sexual purpose.

Considine argued that the victim of that alleged incident took the stand last week and described the incident in question as "tickling," and said he did not perceive the situation to be sexual. The defence also argued there was no direct evidence the victim was under 14 at the time.

Gropper dismissed the defence's motion, saying the victim's notion that there was no sexual intent does not conclude the tickling was or wasn't done for a sexual purpose.

"It's not the victim's perception, it is the intention of the accused which must be considered," Gropper said.

She said she must consider both direct and circumstantial evidence in considering the charge of touching a young person for a sexual purpose.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

 

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