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Judge testifies in trial of priest; Conversation with accuser recounted.

Byline: Gary V. Murray

WORCESTER - Judge Leilah A. Keamy, an associate justice of the Worcester Probate and Family Court, found herself on the witness stand yesterday in Central District Court.

A member of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Cathedral on Anna Street, Judge Keamy was called as a defense witness at the trial of the Rev. Charles Michael Abdelahad of Shrewsbury, the church's longtime pastor, who stands accused of sexually assaulting and physically abusing a female parishioner during counseling sessions at the church.

Called to the stand by Rev. Abdelahad's lawyer, James G. Reardon Jr., Judge Keamy recalled a conversation she had with Rev. Abdelahad's accuser that she believed took place in 2008.

Judge Keamy said the woman, now 45, approached her after a church function and told her she needed some legal advice. The judge testified that she advised the woman she was unable to give legal advice as a judge.

She said the woman proceeded to tell her that she was separated from her husband and that her husband had been physically and verbally abusive toward her for many years. The woman then asked whether a judge would be more inclined to grant her custody of her children if she had proof of the physical abuse, according to Judge Keamy.

The judge said she encouraged the woman to seek a lawyer. She said the woman specifically told her that her husband had punched her, kicked her, pulled her around the house by her hair, given her a black eye and a fat lip and called her vile names in front of their children.

The woman also said her husband had been physically abusive toward their children, according to Judge Keamy.

Toward the end of their conversation, the woman's demeanor changed, and she said she was not sure she wanted a divorce and thought she might try to work things out with her husband, Judge Keamy testified.

She said she wished the woman well.

Under cross-examination by Assistant District Attorney Alexei C. Garick, Judge Keamy acknowledged she told an investigator hired by the defense that the woman had accused her husband of physical abuse, but said she did not provide specific details the woman had related.

The alleged victim testified that Rev. Abdelahad struck her, pulled her hair, banged her head against walls and floors, bit her and sexually assaulted her during about three years of counseling sessions aimed at treating her eating disorder. Introduced into evidence by the prosecution were photographs taken by the woman depicting injuries she said were inflicted by Rev. Abdelahad, who, according to Mr. Reardon, is on a voluntary leave of absence from his role as pastor of the church.

The woman denied that any of the injuries shown in the photographs were self-inflicted and testified that her ex-husband never physically abused her.

Rev. Abdelahad's accuser said the priest believed she had been sexually abused by her father as a child and that her eating disorder was a manifestation of the anger she harbored as a result of the abuse. She also testified that Rev. Abdelahad believed she was suffering from dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder, and that it would be therapeutic for her if he were to "trigger" some of her alter-egos by kissing her and fondling her breasts.

The woman said she is now on disability for depression, anxiety and bulimia, but had never been diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional as suffering from dissociative identity disorder.

Maureen M. Lavallee, a psychologist who said she has treated more than 50 patients with dissociative identity disorder over the past 26 years, testified as an expert witness for the defense yesterday

that the condition can lead to a "distortion of memory."

The jury-waived trial before Judge Andrew M. D'Angelo is scheduled to resume May 25, when Mr. Reardon is expected to continue the defense's case.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 5, 2012
Words:645
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