SNAP Connecticut

Priest Pleads Guilty To Sex With Girl
Supporters Insist Polish Cleric Is Innocent

Courant Staff Writer
Published on 12/22/2004

NEW BRITAIN -- An hour after accepting a plea agreement on charges he sexually assaulted a teenage girl who sought his counseling, the Rev. Roman Kramek sat in the New Britain office of one of his supporters Tuesday and struggled to hold back all he's wanted to say since Christmas 2002.

"It has been psychological torture for me for two years," Kramek said in Polish through an interpreter. "And now I'm glad it's over."

Close to the anniversary of the Christmas Eve arrest that cast an uncomfortable spotlight on the Polish American community in New Britain, the priest - who had only meant to be on temporary assignment from Poland - accepted a nine-month prison sentence with 10 years of probation.

Earlier in Superior Court in New Britain, Kramek avoided trial and a possible 10-year sentence by accepting a plea deal that offered him the minimum for a second-degree sexual assault conviction.

As much as Kramek, 42, said he wanted to speak Tuesday, one of his supporters insisted he wait until his Feb. 17 sentencing, on the advice of his attorney.

"I want to say a lot," he said. "The worst thing is silence."

And so the words that would carry the most weight for Kramek on Tuesday were those he spoke before a judge, who asked whether he would plead guilty to charges he had sex with the girl who came to him for spiritual guidance after an alleged rape.

The priest took a long moment before answering, "Let it be. Yes." He clarified: "Guilty."

About 15 of the priest's supporters were in court, as many have been during the pretrial hearings stretching over two years.

Kramek's accuser, now 19, was in the courtroom for the first time, too.

She did not speak in court Tuesday, but said later she's glad to see the case coming to an end.

"But it's never going to be done for me. I'm going have this big wound in my heart and soul for a long time," she said. "I've been through hell these past few months." The young woman has had support from three members of the Survivor's Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a national organization for survivors of clergy abuse.

She attended the proceedings, she said, "because I wanted to hear from his mouth what he did."

Speaking for the first time since his arrest, Kramek said after his court appearance that he is aching to return to Poland and to his family.

"He accepted the plea bargain and I'm glad he did, because it will put this all to an end," said Lucyna Kolakowska, a Farmington woman who befriended Kramek after the arrest that split the Polish American community in New Britain.

Kolakowska is one of a group of supporters who helped raise funds for the priest's defense.

With the help of about five other families, she now supports him privately. She and others firmly believe in Kramek's innocence and say he was "easy prey" because of a language barrier and at a time when allegations of priest abuse were making national headlines.

Still, she said, "It's the best decision for maintaining the tranquility of the Polish community and for the sake of the girl and for the sake of him."

Attorneys on both sides declined to discuss the talks that led to Kramek's guilty plea, but said they are satisfied with how the case has been resolved.

"My client is looking forward to getting this all behind him and he is anxious to return to Poland," said William Dow, Kramek's attorney.

Kramek will probably return to his native country immediately after completing his sentence. The priest wants to return on his own, but Dow said he expects the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to start deportation proceedings while he is in prison.

Because he has pleaded guilty to a felony, Kramek cannot be readmitted to the U.S. once he leaves, officials said Tuesday.

"It was important to us that he plead guilty to a felony that reflects what he did, admit what he did and serve a period of incarceration," said New Britain State's Attorney Scott J. Murphy.

Kramek's accuser said she isn't concerned with how much prison time he serves.

"As long as he's nowhere near me and he's completely gone," she said. "Because all of this has made my faith in the church rocky. I can't look at the altar. I can't look at the priest. It really upsets me that I had such a strong faith before, and now my faith is literally kaput."

Kramek came to New Britain two years ago from Szyleny in northern Poland to serve temporarily for the Christmas season at Sacred Heart Church, a Polish parish and one of the largest in the city.

During that time, he agreed to give spiritual counseling to the teenage parishioner, who had been troubled by a recent sexual assault. Police say he instead fondled and had sex with the 17-year-old in the home she shares with her grandmother.

Kramek quietly surrendered to police in the church parking lot on Christmas Eve 2002. After initially denying the allegations, he later explained to a Polish-speaking officer that he meant to show her sex could be a pleasurable experience, police said.

Murphy on Tuesday said a DNA sample taken from Kramek matched a sample of dry saliva taken from the girl's breast at New Britain General Hospital.

When Judge Joan Alexander asked Kramek if he had sex with the girl, he paused for a moment, struggling for words.

"I have no other way," he told the judge through a Polish interpreter. "Yes."

Under state law, it is illegal for psychotherapists or clergy members to have sex with anyone they are counseling.

The negotiated sentence did not satisfy everyone.

"This is not true. He just have to say what he have to say," said Zofia Glogowski, a Sacred Heart parishioner who was in court to support Kramek. "We know he's not guilty."

Landa Mauriello-Vernon, director of the Connecticut chapter of SNAP, called the state's offer too lenient.

"Nine months is not enough time for this man for such a horrendous thing," she said.

Courant Staff Writer Ken Byron contributed to this story.
Copyright 2004 by The Hartford Courant

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