Former friend testifies against accused former priest

A one-time friend of Phillip Jacobs testified on Thursday that the former Saanich priest touched him inappropriately a number of times

A one-time friend of Phillip Jacobs testified on Thursday that the former Saanich priest touched him inappropriately a number of times during tutoring sessions.

The witness, now a young man and one of three complainants against Jacobs, appeared in Victoria Supreme Court and described incidents that at first seemed an odd but absent-minded wandering of a priest’s hand, but deemed later in life as inappropriate sexual touching.

Jacobs, 63, is a former parish priest of St. Joseph the Worker church on Burnside Road West, which has an associated Catholic elementary school on the grounds.

Jacobs is charged with sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference of a person under 14 and touching a young person for a sexual purpose. The charges involve three minors under the age of 14, with alleged incidents spanning September 1996 to June 2001, all within Saanich. Jacobs was arrested Aug. 4, 2010 and released on bail.

Crown prosecutor Clare Jennings led the witness through his interactions with Jacobs, who he considered, at the time more than a decade ago, a “cool guy.” With other friends, he helped Jacobs with gardening, attended movie nights at the priest’s house, among other activities.

“I considered him a friend, a father figure of sorts,” the witness told the court.

At a point in time, Jacobs began tutoring the witness one-on-one a few times per week over a few months at the priest’s residence at St. Joseph the Worker.

The witness said for the first few sessions, he and Jacobs studied at the dinner table, but at the priest’s suggestion, they moved to sitting on the couch for better comfort. After a few sessions more, Jacobs suggested the witness could lay back on the couch with his legs on a pillow over Jacobs’ lap, for even more comfort while studying.

The witness testified that Jacobs’ right hand would slide up and down the witness’s left thigh over his pants – “he went from my knee to my groin back and forth … the back of his hand touched my genitals.”

“I definitely felt awkward. I told myself at the time he was being absent-minded,” he said. “It happened over a few occasions, the same each time.

“It was embarrassing. I convinced myself he was absent-minded.”

Jacobs’ lead defence attorney Chris Considine focused on a few inconsistencies in the witness’s statement to Saanich police and noted that the witness had denied anything inappropriate had happened when he spoke with a school counsellor.

“You told (the police) you couldn’t remember if it was one or more sessions, because ‘it was so fricking long ago,’” Considine said, quoting the witness’s police transcript.

“It was a long time ago. I’ve put a lock on the subject since,” the witness responded. “I believe today it happened over a few sessions.”

After the witness moved on from St. Joseph the Worker school, he said he remained friends with Jacobs and would see him periodically. “You didn’t feel a risk from him?” Considine asked. “I didn’t feel any risk. No,” the witness answered.

Considine examined the witness’s enduring friendship with Jacobs, which continued past the point in 2002 when allegations broke that the priest had been relieved of his duties at an Ohio church in the early 1990s after he admitted to inappropriately touching a teenaged boy.

The witness said he felt trapped between two factions in the community, one that supported Jacobs and one that didn’t. The two exchanged emails periodically until 2006. Considine pointed out that in one email, the witness referred to Jacobs as a “best friend” who “worked wonders for the community.” The same email forgave him for “past wrongs” in Ohio.

Considine suggested the witness only accused Jacobs of wrongdoing after reading about the Ohio allegations in the media and after being influenced by fellow students.

“The allegations gave me the time to realize (the touching) was not so innocent and it was more calculated and on purpose,” the witness said. “I always thought it wasn’t right. It felt wrong and uncomfortable. When the allegations came out I pieced together why these things happened.

“Over time I came to my own thoughts and conclusions. I thought he was absent-minded. I never discounted what I felt at the time,” the witness said.

“(You accused him) only after your friends said he was a child molester,” Considine said.

“My friends shared their opinions. I came to my own,” the witness responded.

The trial continues at Victoria Supreme Court next week.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Greater Victoria enjoys sunny first day of spring

Summer-like temperatures of 21 degrees hit Wednesday for first day of spring

Esquimalt puts freeze on taxes for local businesses

The tax increase for residents sits at 5.51 per cent, averaging to an additional $46

Bitter Saturna land-use dispute highlights legal grey areas

Unhappy Tsawout accuse leadership of cultural destruction

Development replacing Fairfield United Church gets final approval

The new Unity Commons Development will take over the space at 1303 Fairfield Rd.

Saanich forwards student-targeted development to public hearing

Proposed development advertises itself to individuals who want a car-free lifestyle

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of March 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: When do you think the next major earthquake will hit Vancouver Island?

According to seismologists, Vancouver Island is overdue for a magnitude 7 earthquake.… Continue reading

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

Mayor meets with B.C. health minister on homeless taxi transfers

Two homeless people were discharged from Surrey Memorial and sent to a Chilliwack shelter

B.C. lottery winner being sued by co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

Volunteer green team joins forces to restore local habitats

Partnerships with schools educate and facilitate remediations

Most Read