| On re-trial,
St. Louis priest is convicted of abusing teenager
By WILLIAM C. LHOTKA -St. Louis Post Dispatch
August 29, 2003
A jury convicted the Rev. Bryan Kuchar late Friday night of sexually
abusing a troubled teenager in 1995 when Kuchar was a parish
priest at Assumption Catholic Church in south St. Louis County.
The jury in St. Louis County Circuit Court found Kuchar guilty
of three out of six counts of statutory sodomy. Jurors were
to return to the courtroom of Judge John Ross for the penalty
phase at 9 a.m. today.
The trial was the second for the priest, who turned 38 on
Sunday, and the alleged victim, who celebrated his 23rd birthday
in July. In May, a jury deadlocked 6-6.
The second trial followed a similar path as the first, and
prosecutor Rob Livergood and defense attorney Scott Rosenblum
gave similar closing statements.
The young man testified he had oral and anal sex with Kuchar.
The priest denied any sexual involvement with the youth.
Kuchar also claimed that his confession on April 10 last
year to police Detectives Jennifer Williams and John Newsham
was bogus and coerced. They had questioned him for three hours.
"Everybody has different breaking points. Everybody
has different buttons," said Rosenblum, adding that Williams
and Newsham "are professionals. They know what buttons
to push. They told him: We just want to close the file and
we can all go home."
Kuchar testified he made up stories about sex with the youth
so the detectives would stop berating him and had promised
there would be neither charges against him nor publicity.
Kuchar stuck to that scenario through several hours of cross-examination
Friday by Livergood. That prompted the prosecutor to tell
the jury in closing arguments: "That man isn't going
to be led around by anybody. You saw what he is made of. No
one is going to come in and confess to something like that,
not in that short a period of time."
The state brought in four additional witnesses in this trial.
One was a co-worker who said Kuchar had asked her a question
about the statute of limitations as it applied to an eighth-grader.
Another was a jail nurse who said Kuchar did not appear distraught
after his arrest.
A third witness was the Rev. Kenneth Robert Smoot, who testified
that Kuchar had admitted his relationship with the teen to
him about two weeks after Kuchar's arrest last year.
A nun, Sister Lydia Ann Braun, said Kuchar had also made
an incriminating remark to her last year.
While Livergood questioned Kuchar's credibility, Rosenblum
attacked the credibility of the accuser by saying the man
was a liar, a manipulator and an opportunist.
Rosenblum said police had gone after Kuchar based only on
the word of the alleged victim because of the media coverage
of police scandals in Boston and elsewhere.
"We don't decide cases with a mob mentality," said
the defense lawyer in exhorting jurors to find his client
In asking for a conviction and pointing to Kuchar wearing
his clerical garb, Livergood countered: "This case is
about these two people. It is not about the Catholic Church.
It is not about these clothes. It's about this man."