By Keith Lacey
One of Father Donald HolmesÂ? victims, who now works with sexual abuse victims, called the disgraced Roman Catholic priest Â?a predatorÂ? after he was found guilty of 14 counts of indecent assault in a Sudbury courtroom Wednesday.
A 10-man, one-woman jury (one juror was sent home Tuesday due to illness) deliberated for 12 hours Tuesday and Wednesday before finding Holmes, 63, guilty on 14 of the 16 counts he was facing.
Justice Louise Gauthier ordered Holmes to return to court next Friday, May 31, when a date for sentencing will be set.
Holmes, who showed no emotion when the verdicts were announced, was originally charged with 16 counts of indecent assault, one count of sexual assault and one count of gross indecency. The Crown dropped one count of indecent assault and one count of gross indecency relating to one complainant last week.
Twelve complainants testified Holmes indecently touched, fondled, rubbed and kissed them in a sexual manner when they were between the ages of nine and 13.
Each complainant said the incidents took place when Holmes was a parish priest at two churches in Sudbury and one in Sturgeon Falls between 1972 and 1984.
Five of the complainants were in court when the verdicts were read and three were holding hands and in tears when the verdicts were announced.
In relation to one of the complainants, the jury found Holmes not guilty of sexual assault, but guilty of indecent assault.
After the guilty verdicts were announced, defence counsel Andrew Buttazzoni asked that the jury be polled.
One juror turned directly towards Holmes, glared into his eyes and in a stern, loud voice said Â?guiltyÂ? 14 times.
Holmes was suspended from all church duties and placed on administrative leave after one woman made an allegation of indecent assault in the fall of 1999.
Holmes pleaded not guilty to every count and vehemently denied ever indecently assaulting any young girl at any time in his life.
Outside the courtroom, the sexual assault counsellor said that Holmes clearly abused his position of trust to get his young victims alone before molesting them.
Â?None of us knew each other, yet the evidence presented in court showed a clear pattern,Â? she said.
Â?He would get us alone, abuse his position of trust and prey on us. HeÂ?s clearly a predator.Â?
HolmesÂ? sister Aline Zichar broke down in tears and hugged her brother after the jury was dismissed and next court date was set.
Â?What can I say, it hurts,Â? said Zichar, sobbing uncontrollably.
The five complainants who were in court for the verdicts hugged each other and shared hugs with assistant Crown attorneys Diana Fuller and Karen Lische.
Gauthier ordered a publication ban of any evidence that could identify any of the complainants.
Outside the courthouse, several of the complainants remained in tears detailing how HolmesÂ? abuse, this trial and the verdicts have affected them.
Â?IÂ?m glad itÂ?s over,Â? said a former altar server who Holmes was found guilty of fondling and French kissing as a 12-year-old. Â?This opens a lot of doors to a lot of people who might be afraid to come forward (with complaints of sexual abuse by adults against children).Â?
She was confident Holmes would be found guilty on the majority of charges because the similarities in the testimony of each complainant were remarkable, she said.
Â?There were just too many similarities and too many victims,Â? she said. Â?None of us knew each other, but the allegations were all the same...heÂ?d get us alone, tell us we were beautiful and then attack us.Â?
She locked out what happened to her for years, but the memories came flooding back 10 years ago on her wedding day when instead of seeing the face of the priest who married her, she saw HolmesÂ? face, she testified.
Her marriage split up, sheÂ?s lost her Roman Catholic faith and suffered a lot of trauma because of this, but these convictions will help her heal, she said.
Â?I donÂ?t want him to ever be around children again,Â? she said. Â?ThatÂ?s a big reason why I came forward.Â?
A second complainant said she felt Â?awesomeÂ? after the jury made its decision.
Â?My heart believed he would be found guilty on most of the charges, but your mind starts playing games with you,Â? she said.
She was particularly pleased with the one juror who showed such disdain for Holmes, she said.
Â?I could have stood up right there and shook his hand,Â? she said in tears. Â?This jury made it clear they were disgusted by what he did to us.Â?
Eleven of the 12 complainants had never met before court proceedings began, but theyÂ?ve developed Â?a special bondÂ? and the vast majority plan on keeping in regular contact, she said.
Â?It was such a relief to be believed,Â? she said. Â?All of us were telling the truth and it makes you feel so good to know the system works.Â?
Holmes should never be allowed to lead a parish or be alone with children in the future, she said.
Â?This was not about punishment and it never was,Â? she said. Â?This was about the whole world knowing what this man did to us. He should never allowed to be a priest again.Â?
The sexual assault counsellor agrees part of HolmesÂ? punishment should be that he not be allowed to be alone with children again.
The testimony of the other complainants gave her chills as each case involved Holmes setting up a situation where he could get them alone before molesting them, she said.
Â?When I heard the other testimony, it just revolted me as to how similar each incident was,Â? she said. Â?It was the same pattern every time. HeÂ?d get our trust, isolate us, then prey on us.Â?
Not only did Holmes deny all the accusations made against him, but he was, in her opinion, arrogant and cocky on the witness stand, and this obviously didnÂ?t endear him to the jury, she said.
At the upcoming sentencing hearing, she will prepare a victim impact statement and then let Justice Gauthier decide what the appropriate penalty is.
Â?If he goes to jail, he goes to jail, if he doesnÂ?t, he doesnÂ?t,Â? she said. Â?This was never about punishment. This was about coming forward and supporting the first woman who had the courage to lay charges and letting everyone know she wasnÂ?t alone.
Â?He may only have rubbed my breast, but a priest shouldnÂ?t prey on young girls and breach his position of trust like he did.Â?
Fuller told the media all of the complainants deserve a great deal of credit for coming forward and revealing very private matters under very difficult circumstances.
Fuller is expected to ask for a lengthy jail sentence at sentencing. Defence counsel Andrew Buttazzoni is expected to ask the court to impose a conditional sentence to be served in the community.
Holmes will remain free until the sentencing hearing under the same conditions of bail as heÂ?s been under for more than two years.