Former friend testifies against accused former priest

A one-time friend of Phillip Jacobs testified on Thursday that the former Saanich priest touched him inappropriately a number of times

A one-time friend of Phillip Jacobs testified on Thursday that the former Saanich priest touched him inappropriately a number of times during tutoring sessions.

The witness, now a young man and one of three complainants against Jacobs, appeared in Victoria Supreme Court and described incidents that at first seemed an odd but absent-minded wandering of a priest’s hand, but deemed later in life as inappropriate sexual touching.

Jacobs, 63, is a former parish priest of St. Joseph the Worker church on Burnside Road West, which has an associated Catholic elementary school on the grounds.

Jacobs is charged with sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference of a person under 14 and touching a young person for a sexual purpose. The charges involve three minors under the age of 14, with alleged incidents spanning September 1996 to June 2001, all within Saanich. Jacobs was arrested Aug. 4, 2010 and released on bail.

Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings led the witness through his interactions with Jacobs, who he considered, at the time more than a decade ago, a “cool guy.” With other friends, he helped Jacobs with gardening, attended movie nights at the priest’s house, among other activities.

“I considered him a friend, a father figure of sorts,” the witness told the court.

At a point in time, Jacobs began tutoring the witness one-on-one a few times per week over a few months at the priest’s residence at St. Joseph the Worker.

The witness said for the first few sessions, he and Jacobs studied at the dinner table, but at the priest’s suggestion, they moved to sitting on the couch for better comfort. After a few sessions more, Jacobs suggested the witness could lay back on the couch with his legs on a pillow over Jacobs’ lap, for even more comfort while studying.

The witness testified that Jacobs’ right hand would slide up and down the witness’s left thigh over his pants – “he went from my knee to my groin back and forth … the back of his hand touched my genitals.”

“I definitely felt awkward. I told myself at the time he was being absent-minded,” he said. “It happened over a few occasions, the same each time.

“It was embarrassing. I convinced myself he was absent-minded.”

Jacobs’ lead defence attorney Chris Considine focused on a few inconsistencies in the witness’s statement to Saanich police and noted that the witness had denied anything inappropriate had happened when he spoke with a school counsellor.

“You told (the police) you couldn’t remember if it was one or more sessions, because ‘it was so fricking long ago,’” Considine said, quoting the witness’s police transcript.

“It was a long time ago. I’ve put a lock on the subject since,” the witness responded. “I believe today it happened over a few sessions.”

After the witness moved on from St. Joseph the Worker school, he said he remained friends with Jacobs and would see him periodically. “You didn’t feel a risk from him?” Considine asked. “I didn’t feel any risk. No,” the witness answered.

Considine examined the witness’s enduring friendship with Jacobs, which continued past the point in 2002 when allegations broke that the priest had been relieved of his duties at an Ohio church in the early 1990s after he admitted to inappropriately touching a teenaged boy.

The witness said he felt trapped between two factions in the community, one that supported Jacobs and one that didn’t. The two exchanged emails periodically until 2006. Considine pointed out that in one email, the witness referred to Jacobs as a “best friend” who “worked wonders for the community.” The same email forgave him for “past wrongs” in Ohio.

Considine suggested the witness only accused Jacobs of wrongdoing after reading about the Ohio allegations in the media and after being influenced by fellow students.

“The allegations gave me the time to realize (the touching) was not so innocent and it was more calculated and on purpose,” the witness said. “I always thought it wasn’t right. It felt wrong and uncomfortable. When the allegations came out I pieced together why these things happened.

“Over time I came to my own thoughts and conclusions. I thought he was absent-minded. I never discounted what I felt at the time,” the witness said.

“(You accused him) only after your friends said he was a child molester,” Considine said.

“My friends shared their opinions. I came to my own,” the witness responded.

The trial continues at Victoria Supreme Court next week.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Monday sees rain with high of 10 C

Plus your weekly forecast

Number of ancient humans continues to grow after discovery

Scientists identify at least 12 species outside of Homo sapians following discovery in Philippines

Peninsula grandmothers salute Roaring ’20s fashion

May 3 event in Sidney benefits Grandmothers Helping African Grandmothers

Deep Cove man running 50 km every month through his 50th birthday year

Ultrarunner hopes Deep 50 Challenge will raise $5,000 for Help Fill A Dream

Sri Lanka invokes war-time military powers after nearly 300 killed in Easter bombings

Sri Lanka’s minister of tourism says 39 foreign tourists were killed in the Easter Sunday attacks

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Bodies of 3 mountain climbers recovered after last week’s Banff avalanche

The men disappeared while attempting to climb the east face of Howse Peak in the Icefields Parkway

Happy birthday: Queen Elizabeth II turns 93 on Easter Sunday

Sunday is the first of two birthday celebrations each year for the queen

RCMP confirm witnesses say body found at Kelowna’s Gyro Beach

Police tape is blocking part of the beach and several RCMP officers are on scene.

B.C. fire department rescues kittens

Enderby homeowner not aware kittens in wood pile near garbage pile fire that got out of hand

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

Most Read