Rev. John Kakkuzhiyil

The Rev. John Kakkuzhiyil leaves the Valley County District Courtroom Monday afternoon. The priest has been accused of committing first-degree sexual assault on Nov. 22, 2018, in the rectory of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ord. At the time, he was also pastor of Sacred Heart in Burwell. (Independent/Jeff Bahr)

ORD — The Rev. John Kakkuzhiyil, a Catholic priest, was today found not guilty of first-degree sexual assault by a Valley County jury.

Kakkuzhiyil was accused of forcible sexual assault of an adult woman from Ord in November 2018 in the rectory of the Catholic church in Ord. At the time, the priest was 62 and the woman was 33.

The jury returned with the verdict today shortly after 1 p.m. The case went to the jury at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. Deliberations concluded between 5:30 and 6 p.m. Wednesday and resumed at 9 a.m. today.

As he left the courtroom, Kakkuzhiyil said he wanted to thank God and all those who stood by him. He was defended by Grand Island attorney Mark Porto.

The jury consisted of nine men and three women.

The priest was placed on administrative leave in December 2018. In addition to serving as pastor of our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Ord, he was also pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Burwell.

Both parties agreed that Kakkuzhiyil performed oral sex on the woman on Nov. 22 and 23, 2018.

Kakkuzhiyil did not wear priestly attire during the trial, which began Monday.

The prosecutors were George Welch and Gail VerMaas, who are both assistant Nebraska attorneys general.

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