Monk’s trial postponed by illness

Author: Roger Croteau
Date Published: 02/11/2000

Judge ‘reluctantly’ grants delay in indecency case

JOHNSON CITY – The trial of an Orthodox monk accused of indecency with a child was postponed again Friday because of the defendant’s failing health.

However, the judge said he was tired of delays in the case.

Sam Greene Jr., 55, is accused of molesting an 11-year-old novice monk at the Christ of the Hills Monastery near Blanco in the summer of 1997.

Another monk from the monastery, Jonathan Hitt, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison in November on similar charges.

“Physically and emotionally, his condition continues to deteriorate,” said Greene’s attorney, Joseph Turner. “Father Greene has a very serious, potentially life-threatening heart problem. He can’t bear the stress of a trial.”

State District Judge Guilford Jones III granted the second continuance in the case, tentatively setting a new trial date for May 1.

Jones also said he wants officers to have access to the monastery, where the monk lives, to make sure no minors are living there or visiting on a daily basis.

Greene, known as Father Benedict, has congestive heart failure.

Jones seemed frustrated that the case couldn’t go forward as scheduled.

“The court’s concern is, No. 1, we can’t continue to put this off forever,” Jones said. “The fact of the matter is, we have to figure out some way to get this case taken care of. Reluctantly, given his condition, I don’t see much choice but to continue it.”

District Attorney Sam Oatman said he will talk to the victim’s family members to see how they want to proceed.

He said he would offer no plea bargain for less than 15 years in prison, unless family members accept a lighter sentence.

The maximum sentence Greene faces is 20 years.

The victim’s mother has filed a $60 million civil lawsuit.

About a dozen monks live at the monastery, which opened in 1980 about five miles southwest of Blanco. Its chief attraction has been a painting of the Virgin Mary that reportedly began weeping tears of myrrh in 1985.

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia broke relations with the monastery when Greene, the monastery’s spiritual leader, refused to cooperate with an inquiry into its operations last year.

rcroteau@express-news.net