ALBION, NY - Disturbing and emotional testimony marked the Orleans County Court trial of a minister accused of sexually abusing young children.
Orleans County District Attorney Joseph Cardone began his opening statement by telling jurors they would hear a case about "despair dysfunction and destruction".
He was speaking about the accounts of the three alleged victims for which the Rev. Roy Harriger, 71, now stands trial.
All three of Harriger's accusers are his grandchildren.
Two of them, now young adults, struggled to maintain their composure while on the stand at the mere mention of his name.
They tearfully testified that the abuse occurred when they were between the ages of 5 and 8, when their grandfather babysat them in the parsonage of a Lyndonville church where he once served as pastor.
At the time of his arrest last year, Harriger was the pastor of Community Fellowship Church in Hartland, which is in Niagara County.
One of Harriger's sons, who is the father of the two now grown children, also testified for the prosecution.
He told jurors that when his kids reported their grandfather inappropriately touched them more than a dozen years ago, he confronted his dad, telling him, "If I find out you did this, I will have you prosecuted,to which his father allegedly replied, "I would never hurt your kids".
Upon cross examination, Harriger's son then claimed that he himself had endured years of sexual abuse at his father's hand.
Nonetheless, Harriger's son continued to allow his father to watch the children.
The courtroom atmosphere became heated when Harriger's lawyer, Larry Koss, questioned the parental wisdom of the witness.
"So your testimony is that you continued to expose your children to the person that sexually abused you a generation before?" Koss asked.
Harriger's son responded: "I was a child then, he told me he had been possessed by demons, but that God had forgiven him. He vowed he would never hurt anyone like that again, and that he would spend his life making up to what he'd done. I believed him."
Things became more explosive when Koss began pointing out inconsistencies in the son's testimony, in his attempt to raise the specter of reasonable doubt among jurors, to the point where Harriger's son retorted sharply, "Do you get off on treating victims this way?"
Early on Wednesday, the trial judge dismissed three misdemeanor charges of child endangerment (one for each alleged victim) when he ruled they did not qualify for an extended statute of limitations, as do some felony sex crimes against children. including the ones Harriger still faces and which could land him a 25 year sentence upon conviction.