Lawsuit Claims Priest Sexually Assaulted Teen

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Date Published: 09/20/2007
Fr. Nicholas Graff
Fr. Nicholas Graff

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A former parishioner has sued a priest and a Greek Orthodox church on allegations of sexual assault when he was a teen, although the priest’s attorney said the lawsuit is frivolous.

The suit against the Very Rev. Nicholas T. Graff, the St. John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America was filed Monday in Duval County Circuit Court.

It does not identify the 22-year-old parishioner or his family members by name.

The suit claims that when the parishioner became a teenager, Graff ”began exhibiting undue, obsessive and inappropriate interest” in him, including taking the parishioner to and from school every day and buying him an automobile and clothing.

The lawsuit also claims Graff gave the teenage parishioner $500 a week over a six-year period; paid travel expenses, phone bills and tuition; and induced him to move into Graff’s home.

The behavior escalated into sexual misconduct when the parishioner turned 16, the suit alleged.

In the summer of 2003, Graff offered the parishioner’s mother $300,000 to surrender parental rights, but the mother refused, the suit said. The suit alleges that about two years later, Graff sexually assaulted the parishioner and filed a petition to formally adopt him.

The suit also alleges the church knew that Graff was under investigation for misconduct.

The church referred Channel 4’s Vickie Pierre to the archdiocese in New York, which declined comment because it said it has not been served with the lawsuit.

Phone calls to Graff’s home and the Jacksonville church were unanswered. Graff’s attorney, Tom Fallis, said he had not been served with the lawsuit.

”We think it has no merits and think is frivolous,” Fallis said. ”We have every intention of defending the suit, vindicating our client, as well as countersuing.”

Graff is no longer a priest at the church.

Attorney Robert Spohrer, who represents the man and his family, declined to discuss the case.

The parishioner suffers from severe emotional distress, has required hospitalization, therapy and counseling, and will require future care, the suit said.

Nobody has been charged with criminal wrongdoing. The suit filed is a civil lawsuit.