World News

Sentencing hearing for cleric on sex crimes

By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG - The Crown is seeking a 12-month jail sentence for a former Orthodox priest who sexually assaulted an altar boy in Winnipeg.

Crown attorney Breta Passler told a sentencing hearing that Seraphim Kenneth Storheim abused a young person and betrayed a position of trust.

Passler said the fact that Storheim, 68, has no criminal record is a mitigating factor, but he must still be punished.

"This offender not only abused a young person, but abused a position of trust," she said. "The offender was a priest who had been entrusted by the victim's family."

Defence lawyer Jeff Gindin asked for a conditional sentence that would allow his client to avoid jail.

Gindin said what happened was an isolated incident that has resulted in "a dramatic fall from grace" for Storheim.

The altar boy, now in his 30s, testified that he was made to fondle Storheim and Storheim touched him inappropriately as well.

Storheim eventually became an archbishop — the highest-ranking cleric in Canada for the Orthodox Church in America.

Gindin also said the media attention given to the case has affected Storheim.

"The publicity in this case has been extensive" he said. "His reputation is ruined, clearly ... around the globe."

Storheim was found guilty earlier this year of assaulting the boy, who lived and worked with him in 1985.

Storheim was charged with sexually assaulting another boy as well, but that witness's testimony was often contradictory and Storheim was found not guilty on that count.

Storheim denied any inappropriate touching when he testified. He told court he was telling the boy about puberty based on some Biblical teachings.

The judge rejected Storheim's version of events.

Storheim was arrested in 2010 after the former altar boys went to police with their complaints. He was placed on leave.

The Orthodox Church in America has 700 parishes, missions and other institutions across North America. It is separate from other churches such as the Greek Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The church's website says Storheim was retired shortly after his conviction.

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