New Brunswick

Priest found not guilty of N.B. sex assault

A priest has been found not guilty of indecent assault against a young New Brunswick boy in the 1970s.

A priest has been found not guilty of indecent assault against a young New Brunswick boy in the 1970s.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Jean-Paul Ouellette delivered the not guilty verdict on Wednesday afternoon in a Campbellton, N.B., courtroom.

Charles Picot, who is in his 60s and worked as a priest throughout the northern part of the province until the 1990s.

Picot had been accused of an assault in Dalhousie in 1975, when the alleged victim, Michael Jensen, was 13.

Jensen waived his right to have his name protected by a publication ban and took the stand on Tuesday.

Ouellette said the Crown failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Picot was guilty of indecent assault on Jensen.

Jensen alleged in court that when he was 13 years old, Picot, who was a priest at his church in Dalhousie, assaulted him.

Picot told the court on Wednesday that he was not in the northern community at the time Jensen said he was assaulted.

The judge said he didn't believe all of Picot's testimony but he also had some doubts about Jensen's version of what happened.

Picot did not stop to talk to the media after the verdict was read.

Gilles Lemieux, Picot's lawyer, did talk about the outcome of the case outside the Campbellton court.

"The judgment is basically that the judge was not comfortable with either one of the versions of the witnesses and resolved the doubt in favour of the accused as is the law in this country, so hence the verdict for the acquittal," Lemieux said.

Jensen also spoke to the media and expressed his disappointment with the judge's ruling.

"I am extremely disappointed with the outcome … I was expecting a guilty verdict. I will live with the verdict, however," Jensen said.

Allegations from 1975

Jensen testified in during the trial that he was one of many young boys who spent a lot of time with Picot. They called him "Charlie" and visited him at the rectory several times a week, he said.

Jensen told the court he thought of Picot as a friend and that he trusted him like he trusted his own father. But that trust was broken one night around Christmas in 1975, he said.

They were watching TV together when Picot asked him to lie on top of him, Jensen said. Moments later, he said, he was trapped in Picot's embrace.

Jensen said the priest violently grabbed his genitals before he struggled out of his grip.

The Crown and defence lawyers delivered their closing statements on Wednesday.

The defence told the court that Jensen was looking for someone to blame for his problems with drugs and alcohol.

The Crown argued that Picot's alibi that he was out of town at the time of the alleged assault is weak.

Demeanour changed

Jensen's brother, Robert Jensen, also testified Tuesday. He told the court his brother's demeanour changed almost overnight when he was about 13 years old.

His grades dropped, his attitude soured, and he began using drugs and alcohol, he said.

Picot, who left the diocese of Bathurst in 1993, is still a priest in Montreal, but he's not practising.

He is facing another charge of indecent assault involving a teenage boy in 1978. He is scheduled to enter a plea on that charge in May.

In 1993, he served seven months in jail for two counts of sexual assault and one of indecent assault.