Priest found innocent of rape

? A jury found a Catholic priest, the Rev. Komlan Dem Houndjame, innocent Friday of sexually assaulting a 48-year-old parishioner in her home in October.

After the verdict was reached, Houndjame grabbed his defense attorney, David Griem, in a bear hug. Supporters of the priest wept and lowered their heads in thankful prayers.

A unidentified parishioner from Assumption Grotto Church in Detroit gives the Rev. Komlan Dem Houndjame a congratulatory hug. A Detroit jury found Houndjame innocent of sexual assault Friday.

“Thank God. Thank everybody,” Houndjame said. “It was like a nightmare.”

The priest, a native of Togo, had been working at Assumption Grotto Church on Detroit’s east side since 1999.

In November, when Archdiocese of Detroit officials became aware of the woman’s complaint against the priest, they removed him from ministry in the parish. Then, earlier this year, church officials further barred him from any public appearance as a priest at the church.

On April 5, Houndjame was charged with criminal sexual conduct.

Throughout the case, parishioners rallied to the priest’s defense, raising money on his behalf and circulating letters among church members supporting his cause.

They described the priest as a human rights activist in Togo, who was barred from his native country for his outspoken opposition to political oppression.

It was unclear immediately after the verdict whether he would be allowed to return to active ministry. Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida couldn’t be reached Friday for comment.

In the past, two other women complained to church officials in St. Augustine, Fla., that the priest made sexual advances toward them. Their accusations were not included in the trial this week in Wayne County Circuit Court.