Witness testifies about abuse by priest David Norton, says he was drugged with pop

The sexual abuse trial of David Norton continued Tuesday, with a witness confronting his former priest in emotional testimony.

Witness confronts alleged abuser: 'I thought you were really a nice guy, Dave'

Former priest and professor David Norton, 72, faces five counts of sexual assault involving boys from Chippewas of the Thames First Nation. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

A powerful man more than six feet tall broke down in tears today as he told the court about being sexually abused as a 10-year-old at the hands of his priest, David Norton.

Standing in the witness box and stroking an Indigenous eagle feather, the witness — now in his 40s — described how he first met Norton when he was 10. At the time, he was dealing with the tragic death of his father six years earlier. The witness, who can't be identified due to a publication ban typical in sex abuse cases, said he was at first overcome by the kindness of a man who would quickly to fill the role of a father figure. 

"I had heard about him being a nice guy in our community," said the man, who at one point became so distraught while testifying the court had to break for a 15-minute recess. 

The man described how he met Norton who was the priest at the St. Andrew's Anglican Church at the Chippewas of the Thames, a First Nations community south of London, Ont. 

Norton, now 72, rarely looked up during the testimony. He has pleaded not guilty to five counts of sexual assault involving boys from the community. 

The man described how Norton welcomed him into the church, and eventually made him an altar boy. 

"It was the structure I was looking for," the man told the court. 

But shortly after, the man said his "priest became a beast."

The witness told the court about weekend sleep overs at Norton's London apartment on William Street. He testified that Norton would give him pop from The Poppe Shope — a treat he didn't get at home — just before bed. He recalls falling asleep almost immediately after drinking the pop and waking up groggy the next morning, but not knowing why. 

"I didn't know what was wrong with me," he said.

Years later as an adolescent experimenting with drugs and alcohol, the witness said he experienced the same grogginess. He believes Norton drugged him on those nights at his apartment because he never woke up groggy after nights spent at home.

He testified about other unsettling memories from his weekend visits with Norton, recollections he would only years later understand as abuse. 

He told the court he awoke one morning in Norton's apartment with a strange smelling substance on his hands that as a 10 year old, he couldn't identify. Again, as an adolescent going through puberty years later, he would understand that what he'd smelled earlier was semen. 

The witness also testified about waking up with pains that he would later know to be consistent with anal penetration. He told the court he still suffers from the physical effects of that abuse.

'I couldn't stay awake'

The man testified that he and Norton would share a bed during the sleep overs. He didn't think it unusual, as he often shared a bed with adults at home. 

He told the court that on a few occasions he felt Norton press himself against him in bed but was too groggy to understand what was happening, or to stop it.

"I couldn't stay awake," he told the court. "I didn't know what happened. I always woke up with my underwear on." 

The witness told the court the abuse was compounded because Norton had showed him what he initially thought was kindness and love. He said Norton spent time taking him to his rural property in Belmont and spent mornings teaching him to play chess. 

Norton organized activities with the witness and other boys through the church, including a walk-a-thon and a carnival.

"I loved this guy," the man said. "My whole community supported him." 

Early on, the witness was so enamoured with Norton, he'd wished that his mother would marry him.

At one point during Tuesday's testimony, the witness turned to Norton in the prisoner's box and and confronted him: "I thought you were really a nice guy, Dave."

The abuse continued for about a year, the witness said, before he stopped spending time with Norton. He estimates he was molested more than 10 times but less than 20.

Earlier this year Norton pleaded guilty to sexually touching a child under 14. He is currently serving a four-year sentence in that case. 

The trial continues Wednesday.