Monk Guilty In Sexual Assault Cases www.privateofficer.com
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
JOHNSON CITY Oct. 25, 2007 — A Blanco County jury today found a monk guilty of four counts of sexual assault of a child.
William Hughes, 56, was accused of being involved in the sexual assault of two boys who were novice monks at the Church of the Hills monastery in the late 1990s.
During closing arguments this morning, prosecutors and a defense attorney said the case hinged on whether the sex acts occurred before the victims were 17, which is the legal age of consent in Texas.
Defense attorney Eddie Shell said one of the victims testified that he couldn’t remember if he was 161/2 or 17 when the assaults happened.
Prosecutor Cheryl Nelson said the victims testified that the sexual assaults started a few months after the victims joined the monastery and before they turned 17.
After the verdict, one of the victims, James Wright Jr., said the verdict was “great.”
Wright lived at Christ of the Hills monastery from 1998 to 1999 when he was 15 after his parents sent him there because he was acting out. Wright said he wanted the maximum sentence for Hughes.
Jurors will begin their deliberations on sentencing this afternoon.
The now-closed monastery split with the Russian Orthodox Church in 1999 after the monks were investigated on accusations that they sexually abused a 13-year-old novice monk who lived there. It was on 105 acres outside the city of Blanco.
The monastery’s founder, Samuel Greene Jr., pleaded guilty in 2000 and was sentenced to 10 years probation for sexual assault of a child; he died earlier this year.
Hughes’ cousin, Mike Gamble, an Alabama attorney who attended the trial, said Hughes should just be fined.
Hughes “was sucked into the monastery by Greene” when he was a teenager, Gamble said. Hughes met Greene in 1968 when Greene was running a Catholic boys ranch near San Antonio, he said.
Greene told his probation officer in a 2006 taped interview that he had sexual contact with boys over a 30-year period starting in the 1970s, according to court records.
Two other monks, Walter Paul Christley and Hugh Brian Fallon, have pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault of a child. Their trials are pending.
A fourth monk, Jonathan Hitt, received a 10-year prison sentence in 1999 for sexual assault of a child.