THE fate of a Riverina Catholic priest accused of raping a 10-year-old girl will be decided on Monday.
Father Neru Leuea has stood trial in Wagga District Court this week after pleading not guilty to sexual intercourse with the girl without her consent in Griffith in January, 2003.
After the Crown and defence cases closed on Friday, Judge Gordon Lerve said he would deliver a verdict on Monday.
The judge-alone trial has heard allegations Leuea sexually assaulted the girl after sneaking into a bedroom in the early hours of the morning at a house where a party was being held.
Leuea had been ordained a priest in Christchurch just weeks before.
Leuea has denied the allegation, claiming in the witness box on Friday he was not in Griffith at the time of the alleged sex crime.
Crown Prosecutor, Wayne Creasey, put to Leuea he was a different man when he drank alcohol.
The court heard that police-recorded conversations between the girl and Leuea over the phone and at a cafe last year.
In one conversation, the girl makes reference to “what you did to me”.
“What do you think she was talking about then?” Mr Creasey asked Leuea.
Leuea said he did not ask the girl.
“You knew what she was talking about,” Mr Creasey said.
“No I didn’t,” Leuea replied.
“You knew she was talking about sexual intercourse without consent.”
“You forced yourself upon her, didn’t you?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“After you were drinking.”
“No, I didn’t.”
The Crown alleges Leuea raped the girl sometime between January 15 and January 31, 2003.
Leuea’s sister-in-law, Peka (Sue) Leuea on Friday gave the court exact dates she said Leuea was in Sydney or Newcastle, starting with January 15 when he returned to Australia after a holiday in his native Samoa.
She said he returned to Wagga on January 24.
Under cross-examination by Mr Creasey, Mrs Leuea said she had been told the dates by her husband – Leuea’s brother – early last year.
Monsignor Michael Burgess, who had Leuea in his West Wagga parish for 12 weeks leading up to Leuea’s ordination to the priesthood, said he had been told Leuea was in Wagga in late January, but did not see him.
Leuea’s lawyer, Stephen Stanton, said there were nine adults and 10 children in the house at the time of the party and the circumstances of the alleged offence as described by the girl were “a little far-fetched”.
On the other hand, he said Leuea had given evidence “in a forthright and frank” manner “as a man innocent of these charges would”.
Mr Creasey said Leuea had not been a truthful witness.
“I would submit he was onconvincing as to where he was and what his movements were in January, 2003, and I suggest his alibi just crumbles, quite frankly,” Mr Creasey said.
Leuea has served as a priest in Griffith, Leeton and Narrandera, where he was arrested last November.