Not evidence to convict archbishop, defence lawyer says

Author: Chinta Puxley, The Canadian Press
Date Published: 11/01/2013
Orthodox Church in America Archbishop Seraphim Storheim is on a leave of absence as he faces sex-abuse charges.
Orthodox Church in America Archbishop Seraphim Storheim is on a leave of absence as he faces sex-abuse charges.

WINNIPEG – A lawyer defending an Orthodox archbishop from allegations he sexually assaulted two brothers almost 30 years ago says there is not enough evidence to convict.

Seraphim Storheim is accused of sexually assaulting two pre-teen boys when they visited him on separate occasions in Winnipeg in 1985. The men have testified Storheim walked around naked and asked them to touch him sexually.

In his closing arguments Friday, defence lawyer Jeff Gindin told Justice Christopher Mainella the brothers’ testimony isn’t enough to convict Storheim beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The evidence is unreliable, it’s inconsistent and, in many ways, it’s simply illogical,” Gindin suggested.

One of the brothers admitted he had large gaps in his memory and couldn’t provide many specifics. He told court he is on several medications and has spent time in a psychiatric hospital.

Gindin said the man cannot remember going to the police with his allegations.

“His lack of memory is startling.”

Their testimony that Storheim used to walk around his parish home naked doesn’t make sense, Gindin added. Storheim shared the home with another priest who was often there and many parishioners had keys to the home and used the space, he said. Others dropped by unannounced and simply came in through the unlocked front door.

“The idea that someone would decide to walk around nude casually … is just plain illogical,” Gindin said. “It makes no sense.”

One of the brothers may have accidentally seen Storheim naked but no sexual assault occurred, Gindin said.

“It was not an intentional display on purpose.”

Gindin argued that even if the judge believes Storheim exposed himself to one of the brothers, that might be considered inappropriate, but didn’t constitute sexual assault.

“No one was touched in a private area,” Gindin said.

Storheim, now 67, has vehemently denied anything inappropriate took place. He testified he did talk to one of the brothers about puberty — a discussion he said was probably prompted by the mention of bodily discharges in the Bible. In retrospect, Storheim called the discussion “one of the stupider things I’ve done in my life.”

Storheim was arrested in 2010 after the brothers went to police. He became the Orthodox Church in America’s top cleric in Canada in 2007 and is currently on leave.

The trial, which is being heard by judge alone, was expected to hear closing arguments from the Crown later in the day.