2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Boy: Sex with priest spurred by cash, pity

Published: June 25, 2013, 12:46 pm, by Lance Benzel

A Colorado Springs teenager who says he was paid to have sex with a priest he called “grandfather” in 2011 told a friend he agreed to the deal partly out of pity for the elderly clergyman.

“I kind of feel sorry for him,” the then-16-year-old altar boy said of the Rev. Charles Robert “Bob” Manning, 78, according to a phone conversation that was secretly taped by a friend in 2011 and turned over to Colorado Springs police.

“He’s on the verge of dying. He’s real close,” the boy says later. “That’s why I don’t want him to get in trouble.”

In a 20-minute recording played for jurors on Tuesday, the boy sounds reluctant to discuss the allegations butFather Charles Robert Manning opens up after assurances by Evan Hess, a fellow teen who is friends with the accuser’s sister.

Asked if Manning had ever touched him, the boy answers “yes,” and says it happened once – at Manning’s Colorado Springs rectory, or church-supplied home.

The boy said he agreed to the sex in exchange for an envelope containing “a hundred bucks in fives.”

“I got there and I had a few drinks,” the boy says of the encounter. “I thought, What do I have to lose? I’ll never see him again and it’s a hundred bucks.”

Hess, now 19, told jurors Tuesday that he made the recording with help from the accuser’s sister. At the time, the accuser was out of state, and Hess placed the call on speaker phone while using the sister’s phone to record their conversation.

Hess said they hatched the plan because of suspicions about the nature of boy’s relationship with Manning, who lavished him with gifts including jewelry, watches and a used Mitsubishi Eclipse, according to testimony.

“He’s a good person,” the boy tells Hess in asking him not to report the allegations. “It’s gonna kill me if any of this trust gets broken.”

“Did he let you and your friends drink and smoke weed and stuff?” Hess asks. When the boy answered “Yeah,” Hess added: “Oh man, that’s crazy.”

At the time of the pretext phone call, Hess was involved in the Colorado Springs police Explorers program for young people interested in law enforcement – a fact defense attorney Tracey Eubanks hammered on as she sought to raise questions over whether the accuser actually knew the call would be heard by police.

Manning, formerly a pastor at St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church, is in the second day of a 10-day trial on suspicion of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. Prosecutors allege he used booze, pot and lavish gifts to coerce the boy into sex.

The defense said Manning looked on the boy as a grandson and that his goodwill toward the boy has been distorted into something “evil and sinister” in a bid to convict him based on false allegations.

Testimony will continue at 2 p.m. this afternoon.