Two brothers who say they were sexually abused by an Orthodox priest will have their testimony considered jointly, a Manitoba judge ruled Tuesday.
The decision by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Christopher Mainella at the trial of Seraphim Storheim is not what the defence had hoped to hear. It means each brother's testimony about separate, alleged sexual encounters with Storheim can be used in considering the other's allegations.
"The probative value of the evidence... outweighs its potential prejudice," Mainella said.
The two complainants were preteens in the summer of 1985 when they were sent, on separate occasions, to live and work as altar boys with Storheim in Winnipeg. The brothers, now in their 30s, cannot be identified under a publication ban.
The men have already told the trial Storheim walked around naked and asked them to touch him sexually. One brother's memory was vague and sometimes contradictory. He testified he suffers from mental illness and is on several medications.
The other brother's testimony was much more clear. He told the trial Storheim would sometimes lie on the floor and touch himself. He also testified Storheim once combed through his pelvic area, searching for pubic hairs, as he sat naked on a bed.
Normally, testimony about separate alleged incidents is not combined so as not to prejudice a judge or jury. But the judge granted a similar-fact evidence application from the Crown to have each brother's testimony used in the other's case.
The move is needed because the complaints stem from the same time period and bear similar characteristics about Storheim's alleged actions, Mainella ruled. The case is being tried by the judge alone.
Defence lawyer Jeff Gindin had earlier hinted he would consider moving that one of the charges be dismissed -- the one involving the brother with the vague memory. Tuesday's ruling makes that unlikely.
The next step is to set dates for the defence to present its case. Outside court, Gindin said it is "quite likely" he will call witnesses, but he would not say whether Storheim will testify.
Storheim, now in his 60s, worked as a priest in the Orthodox Church in America in Alberta, North Carolina, London, Ont., and other areas.
He became the church's top cleric in Canada in 2007. The church has 700 churches and other facilities across North America.
-- The Canadian Press