Church Member Questions Claims of Priest Abusing Teen

Author: Jackelyn Barnard
Date Published: 09/21/2007

JACKSONVILLE, FL — The Very Reverend Nicholas Graff is still on the church’s website, even though he is no longer a priest at the St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church.

Church members say Graff stepped down from the Jacksonville church in June.

”I was stunned. First thing that popped in my head, I wonder if it has anything to do with that,” says Tony Yeatropoulos.

Yeatropoulos says he knew about the allegations Graff sexually abused a child in the church.

While the lawsuit filled with the allegations was filed just days ago, First Coast News has learned the allegations have circled around the church since at least 2003.

Yeatropoulos, a church member and former parish council member, says the allegations were reported to the Archdiocese.

”A decision was made and they reported to the Diocese in Atlanta. The Diocese in Atlanta said they’re doing an investigation. A month went by and they said [they] found no evidence to substantiate the accusations,” says Yeatropoulous.

According to court records, Graff met the boy 12 years ago when the child was 10 years old.

He allegedly bought him clothes, a car, and gave him $500 a week over a six year period.

Those who know the father and the child say Graff was just helping out a troubled kid.

”Father kind of took him under his wing to say this kid needs help. I think he paid it out of his pocket,” says Yeatropoulous.

Court records allege Graff used funds and accounts from the church to purchase the items and provide the monetary inducements.

”That is so unbelievable. There is no way. Impossible….if you knew character of this man, there is no way,” says Yeatropoulos.

The lawsuit alleges in 2003, Graff offered $300,000 to the mother for her to surrender her parental rights. The lawsuit says the mom refused.

The lawsuit also alleges Graff then tried to adopt him. First Coast News has learned the adoption petition was filed in September 2005 and then dismissed in January 2006.

The court records concerning the adoption process have been sealed.

The attorney for Graff told First Coast News the lawsuit is frivolous and that there will be a countersuit.

The Archdiocese says it has not been served with the lawsuit and cannot make a comment right now.