Former Treme church pastor files defamation suit against rape accuser

A New Orleans Catholic priest removed from service in January, when allegations surfaced that he raped a young boy in 2008, has sued his accuser for defamation.

The Rev. John Asare-Dankwah, most recently the pastor of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in Treme, was accused in a civil lawsuit and in a New Orleans Police Department report of rape and assault during a 2008 church retreat. The accuser was 10 years old at the time.

The lawsuit was filed in Jan. 2021. The police report was filed in November 2020.

The priest issued a statement at the time denying the allegations. The Archdiocese of New Orleans said then it would investigate internally and removed him from service pending that probe. Archdiocese spokeswoman Sarah McDonald said Wednesday Asare-Dankwah will remain out of ministry until the case is resolved, in accordance with policy for any priest accused of abusing a minor.

The initial lawsuit filed by "A.A. Doe" alleges the Rev. John Asare-Dankwah attended a church retreat in Jan. 2008 with 11 students from Catholic schools. The suit claims the alleged rape and assault happened during a retreat in Montgomery, Alabama.

Asare-Dankwah’s countersuit and defamation claims, filed in federal court Monday, note that the accuser also told parishioners that the rape occurred at a church retreat in Ponchatoula. His suit calls both statements “false and wholly without merit,” and says the priest was in Ghana that January.

The priest “suffered mental anguish,” “emotional distress,” and “financial injury,” because of the accuser’s statements, Asare-Dankwah’s lawsuit states. The suit calls the accuser’s conduct “unreasonable,” and says it has resulted in serious interference with Asare-Dankwah’s privacy.

The accuser’s attorney, Desiree Charbonnet, said she stands "firmly by the side of our client," and called the countersuit an "intimidation tactic."

"It's just not going to stop us from seeking the truth and letting that come out in court," she said.

Zach Hiner, the local leader of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the group hopes the defamation suit is “quickly tossed,” and that church officials “will stand in support of the victim” and encourage others to come forward.

“If Fr. John Asare-Dankwah is confident that the claim against him is false, we believe he should meet the allegation in open court. Instead, we think that his decision to counter sue is an attempt to both intimidate the current victim and frighten others into coming forward,” Hiner said in a statement.

The defamation suit also claims the accuser intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon the priest.

"The claims against Fr. Asare are false and he intends to clear his name and character through this action," the priest's attorney Allen Miller said in a statement to WDSU.

See the original story here.

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