Syracuse Diocese priest case: Girl tells police he touched her, feared he possibly was grooming others

Rev. Nathan W. Brooks

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A teen girl and her mother have accused a priest in the Syracuse Catholic Diocese of having an inappropriate relationship with the girl since she was 14, according to court documents.

Rev. Nathan Brooks, 36, of LaFayette, has been charged with third-degree sex abuse, forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a child. The incidents happened between 2019 and 2021, authorities said.

On Tuesday, Brooks was arraigned in the Homer Town Court.

Court documents obtained by Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard Tuesday reveal new details in the case.

The girl, who recently turned 18, and her mother came forward to authorities after the girl saw Brooks interacting with others and became concerned that he was treating other girls the way he had treated her, according to a deposition the girl gave to the Cortland County Sheriff’s Office.

Brooks met the family when he became their priest in 2019, according to a deposition from the mother. The family would invite him to their home often, the mother told deputies.

At one time while Brooks and the girl were swimming together, the priest brushed a hand against the teen’s vagina in a noticeable way, the girl said in the deposition. Other times while they were swimming he would pull her toward him and have her on his lap, she told deputies.

Brooks would also constantly message the girl, despite her mother telling him not to and a diocese policy that prevents priests from contacting minors.

He would send “flirty” messages regarding a couple from the show “The Office,” the girl told deputies. He told her to delete the messages so her mother would not find out he was in contact with her, she said.

The girl also said that Brooks would give her “long hugs” that would last around 30 seconds. During one of those hugs, she felt his erect penis, she told deputies.

“We were way too close and I realize now that this was inappropriate,” the girl said in the disposition.

The girl said that Brooks also had inappropriate contact with her while on a bus for a youth trip.

In her statement, the girl said that just a few months before she turned 18, she realized something was wrong. She said she cut off all contact with Brooks in June 2023 and told her mom about what had been going on.

She said she saw Brooks have an unusual interaction with someone and realized he may be treating other girls the same way and was concerned. Her statements in the court documents don’t detail what she saw.

“I had many incidents and encounters with [Brooks] that made me uncomfortable and I now know he was grooming me,” she told deputies.

On Tuesday, Brooks’ attorney, Michael Vavonese, said that people should not jump to any conclusions about the case. He pointed out that Brooks has entered a not-guilty plea to all the charges against him.

Vavonese would not comment on whether he was retained by Brooks or the diocese.

Brooks has been suspended from all priest duties as the criminal investigation plays out, the diocese officials said last week.

Brooks is an administrator at the Church of the Nativity at St. Joseph in LaFayette, Immaculate Conception in Pompey, St. Leo in Tully and St. Patrick Mission in Otisco.

He was ordained in 2019 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. He graduated from Bishop Grimes High School in 2005 before attending St. Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, according to The Catholic Sun.

In July, the diocese agreed to pay $100 million to sex abuse survivors as part of a bankruptcy settlement.

The diocese filed for bankruptcy days after 38 people filed lawsuits against the diocese alleging sex abuse by priests.

The settlement is the second largest sex abuse payout by a Roman Catholic institution and its affiliates in any Roman Catholic bankruptcy case, according to a law firm that represents over 120 sex abuse survivors in the Syracuse diocese.

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