Posts tagged Arseny Chagovtsov
Before I continue, I want to add a couple of words of clarification from the last post:
First, I suggested that relative to the documents the canonization committee claims it has, Arseny perjured himself. Here is how I came to that conclusion. The documents the canonization committee says it has from Kharkov would show that a son was born to the Chagovtsov family, after the first year of marriage, apparently. Fr. Andrew Morbey, in a comment on Frontier Orthodoxy, has stated that Archbisop Arseny’s wife died in childbirth, which may well be true, but it seems it would have been with their second child, who would have also died in the process unless we simply have no records of a second son/child. I base this on the online sources that say his wife died in the 1890s. Now, if that is true, then the following testimony seems very odd:
Smitkin: Were you a married man in Russia?
S: Had children, didn’t you?
[. . . other testimony, which, by the way, is fairly hard-hitting--including questioning about a lady who lived with him in New York; the judge upheld Garvan's objection, noting that Archimandrite Arseny's character was not on trial . . .]
S: How long had you lived in Kharkov?
A: Not in Kharkov, near Kharkov.
S: Well, near that place, how long had you lived there?
A: About thirteen years.
S: Didn’t your wife give birth to a son to you?
[This may be found on pp. 45-46.]
Now, I am accepting the canonization committee’s evidence and the sources that give her death as the 1890s (though really, she could have died earlier and we’d have the same likelihood of perjury). If I am wrong in accepting the committee’s claim to documentation, then perhaps there is no perjury. Perhaps Dionysius is not really +Arseny’s son (i.e., his wife had an affair and answering “no” to a question that includes the phrase “to you” avoids perjury). Or, perhaps Dionysius is a son to +Arseny through other means (an affair with another woman or adoption, though the adoption option would seem to make the first denial of any children an example of perjury). I realize some might want to claim something was lost in translation or that Arseny misunderstood the question, but I find that misguided and, frankly, incorrect. Fr. Arseny comprehended the Russian translator well enough to clarify details and respond in a way that suggests good communication. The question is whether the documentation from the canonization committee is as solid as it claims. If it is, then relative to that documentation, I think there is perjury. If that documentation is wrong or has been misunderstood, then any of the other scenarios I mentioned could be correct, but none of them would be entirely exonerating of Archbishop Arseny either.
Second, when I mentioned Mary Krinitsky appearing nervous or confused, that is a judgment call I am making on the basis of the readings and exchanges and one I am making despite the clear translation difficulties. Her native Carpatho-Rusyn caused difficulty for the Russian translator and juror nine, the Pole, gave it his best shot in order to help.
Third, I wish to apologize to all the lawyers out there who want a sense for the momentum and flow of the trial, a better sense for what’s being objected to and how objections are handled, what kinds of questions are asked, etc. That is not the kind of analysis I am providing here. The trial transcript will be up on Monday, so any and all legally trained experts will be able to read the transcript for themselves at that time. In the meantime, know that my analysis is one that is simply looking for consistencies and inconsistencies within the narratives given and arguments made.
Now, I turn to the defense’s case. Due to its length, I’m going to divide it into two, maybe three parts. I ask that the readers forgive me for stringing this out. My intent is not to keep everyone hanging, but rather to keep the posts both an easily typable and readable length. The defense opened its case on page 175. Smitkin asked that the charges be dropped due to the state’s inability to make a strong enough case, but the court overruled and he continued on.
The first witness the defense called was Harry Needle, the notary public who validated the first affidavit that Mary Krinitsky had signed, naming Archimandrite Arseny as the biological father. Needle claimed Mary Krinitsky had been informed of the contents of the affidavit she signed (181) and that he knew nothing of the alleged offer of marriage and/or money to Mary Krinitsky in return for signing the affidavit (182). Furthermore, the affidavit stated that Archimandrite Arseny and Yatsko Adamiak threatened her and Mr. Needle, who testified to being able to speak both Russian and Carpatho-Rusyn, said Mary Krinitsky had stated the contents of the affidavit to him and she was fully aware of what it said (191-95). We also learned during this time that Hrycko Chaly was instrumental in getting Mary Krinitsky to sign an affidavit.
Mitrofan Biluszenko was called next. Biluszenko testified that Mary Krinitsky had approached his wife, hoping they might adopt the boy (211). This contradicted Krinitsky’s own testimony, for she had said that although she knew Biluszenko, she had not spoken to him. Biluszenko describes the incident of the rape and Krinitsky’s subsequent stay at the monastery until she began to show (215). He claimed that Krinitsky told this to him. He also claimed that Krinitsky told him she had been “paid off” and told to leave (215, 220). In cross examination, Garvan tied to show that Biluszenko had not obtained a painting job/contract for the monastery and was upset at Arseny and only testifying out of revenge, but Biluszenko denied such an accusation (denying both the attempt to obtain the job and that he was out for revenge). A week or two before the Svoboda article came out, Biluszenko came home to find Hrycko Chaly and Mary Krinitsky at his house along with Biluszenko’s wife and Eugene Wasylenko.
Bishop Soter Ortinsky was called as a character witness for the defendants. Ortinksy frustrated Garvan because Garvan asked whether any decent Christian man would write such an article as appeared in Svoboda. Ortinksy (240) informed Garvan that if the accusation was false, no, but if true, then it would depend on the laws of the country and what was allowable. Garvan was upset, likely seeing this as an evasive answer. Ortinksy also noted, in response to questioning by Smitkin, that he ignores the bad press he receives (244-45) rather than pursuing libel suits.
Fr. Nicholas Pidmorecki and Fr. Demetrius Dobrotwor, Greek Catholic priests were also called as character witnesses. During cross examination, Garvan asked Dobrotwor whether it was appropriate to publish an article sent into a paper with only an unsigned letter. Smitkin then objected and held up the very letter, noting it was signed. Thedosius Labowky was then called as an expert witness to verify the letter’s contents (as it was in “the Ruthenian language”).
Following that, Eugene Wasylenko, who had been at Biluszenko’s house, was called to the stand. Wasylenko gives the same recounting of Mary Krinitsky’s tale that Biluszenko had given, noting the buggy was the “first time” (261). He further claimed there had been no one in Mayfield by the name of “Andrew Pretash” (265) and that Mary Krinitsky had said she felt “threatened” by Arseny (270). Like Biluszenko, Wasylenko denied to Garvan that he had ever attempted to obtain work at the monastery.
The next witness to take the stand is Hrycko Chaly and it is with him that I shall pick up in post four. At this point, the defense as started to muster a case against the prosecution’s. Some headway has been made, as there is a notary public (Harry Needle) who testified to the affidavit that lies behind the Svoboda article and Biluszenko and Wasylenko now give the jury a testimony that contradicts Mary Krinitsky and offers a reason she may have changed her mind and lied (she had been threatened). This is becoming a he said/she said affair with an affidavit to back up the allegedly libelous article. The defense is not done yet, however.
Fr. Oliver Herbel, Executive Director
[This post is cross posted at http://frontierorthodoxy.wordpress.com]
Well, this project has become a little lengthier than I intended, so the number of postings may be increasing. I do sincerely apologize for this. I simply did not want to throw together too long of a post. In this post, I am going to provide an analysis of the main components of the prosecution’s case, minus the cross examinations of the defense witnesses. That will be discussed in the next post, which will continue with the defense’s case. I will note some relevant cross examination by Smitkin, the defense attorney in this post here.
As mentioned in the last post, the criminal libel charge was pressed because of an article that appeared in Svoboda. Those interested in the original article may look here (p. 5, but half of the first column did not get copied–blame Svoboda, not me):
Likely, I’ll request microfilm for the article. In the meantime, this online version is the best we have. The article is translated in the trial transcript and the translations that were read were by St. (Fr.) Alexander Hotovitsky (in the transcript, it appears to be misspelled as “Holovitsky”).
What I need to make clear from the outset is that the trial I am analyzing is a criminal trial. The defendants are Anthony Curkowskyz (the editor of Svoboda and Konstantine Kirczow (who was in charge of many of the operations). A civil suit had also been filed by Archimandrite Arseny personally (for $25,000 in damages), with them as the defendants together with the Little Russian National Union, but that is not the trial being discussed here. I am providing an analysis of the criminal trial that proceeded because Arseny wished to have criminal charges pressed against Curkowskyz and Kirczow personally.
Now, as I had mentioned in the last posting, the trial centered on whether Archimandrite Arseny had sexually forced himself on Mary Krinitsky, during an evening buggy ride of several miles from Simpson, PA, to St. Tikhon’s Seminary. Also relevant is whether Arseny continued the abuse for a few months longer, before Mary obtained work elsewhere under the employ of Mr. Mendelson.
What the prosecution needed to do was prove that the accusation in Svoboda was criminally libelous. I am not a legal historian, so I do not presently know what the New York law on libel was at the time. I know that today, libel is extremely hard to prosecute and many states do not even have criminal libel laws on their books.
We also should note at the outset that there are two important but different issues that concern us today: the trial’s focus, which is whether Kircowz and Curkowskyz were guilty of criminal libel and whether Archbishop Arseny is worthy of canonization. These are two separate issues, so I beg the reader’s indulgence as I try to navigate the trial with these two distinct concerns in mind.
At the very beginning of the trial, the defense attorney, one L.A. Smitkin, argued that the case ought to be delayed until after the civil case had been decided, lest the criminal court appear to be aiding the plaintiff in that suit. Francis Patrick Garvan, the assistant DA (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Patrick_Garvan) said he had seen no such decision ever made in his eleven years prosecuting cases and the court (Judge Joseph F. Mulqueen) stated that Smitkin’s motion would be upheld only if “public peace” were being threatened by doing so. Therefore, the trial continued.
Now, let me state from the outset that this opening sets the tone for what one would read the rest of the way through. Smitkin makes numerous objections and takes numerous exceptions to them being overruled. Yes, Garvan is overruled at times, too, but not nearly as many times as Smitkin. Really, I wouldn’t be surprised if the ratio were 15:1, but I am digressing into the sort of area that might be nice for the next post concerning the “lighter side” of the case.
As is normal practice, the prosecution produces its witnesses first. The testimonies here are significant. The witnesses include Fr. Arseny, Mary Krinitsky, and Edward A. Delaney, Archimandrite Arseny’s lawyer from Pennsylvania. The case, by the way, was held in NY because that’s where Svoboda’s office was. Delaney testified that he tried to get a retraction from Svoboda but it was to no avail. He claims not to have been told that Svoboda had printed the article based on an affidavit from Mary Krinitsky herself. Interestingly, Delaney did claim that the reason he tried to obtain the retraction was “so the priest could go back to his parish at Mayfield” (p.35). In other words, the allegation had been taken so seriously that Metropolitan Platon had removed Fr. Arseny from the parish.
When Archimandrite Arseny took the stand, he stated that Mary Krinitsky worked at the orphanage from May until November of 1906, at which point she went to work for Mr. Samuel Mendelson. In both places, she worked as a “domestic,” i.e. low wage earning servant-lady. He also stated that Mary was in Simpson during the cemetery service on July 29, 1906, where she was working for Fr. Alexi Vogolovsky. He also said he gave her a ride from the cemetery to St. Tikhon’s monastery (estimated at about seven miles) (p.43). He also denied having kicked Mary out of the monastery and denied having refused her the opportunity to place her child in the orphanage later the following June (June 4th of 1907).
Under cross-examination, Smitkin tried to implicate Fr. Arseny in something else that happened in Russia, but Archimandrite Arseny side steps it. An interesting thing to note, however, is Arseny’s claim that he did not have any children while in Russia (prior to his wife’s death). He even specifically denied having a son pp. 45-46).
The denial of any children, especially a son, is an important point to note because according to the canonization committee’s life of Archbishop Arseny, there was a son from Arseny’s area of Russia (Kharkov) who died in 1937. Furthermore, the committee’s life refers to documentation received from Metropolitan Nikodim that claims a son was born to Fr. Arseny and his wife after the first year of marriage. In addition to the life, one may go here:
Therefore, relative to the documentation that would support the birth of the son, Archimandrite Arseny perjured himself. It is natural to ask why, but I presently do not know why he perjured himself.
On page 54, Archimandrite Arseny seemed to fudge on the degree to which he was aware of the status of his civil suit against the defendants. Smitkin was also able to introduce as evidence a statement from the filing of that civil suit in which Archimandrite Arseny claimed he was forced to resign as rector of the parish in Mayfield and withdraw to St. Tikhon’s monastery. Arseny tried to clarify that the way it had been translated to him was that if he was guilty, he was not fit to occupy any position in the Church. Whether Archimandrite Arseny misunderstood, lied on the stand (again?), or just had bad legal counsel on this particular point is impossible to tell.
Mary Krinitsky took the stand for the prosecution and supported Archimandrite Arseny’s testimony. In fact, she went so far as to name “Andrew Pretash” as the father of her child. Ms. Krinitsky claimed Archimandrite Arseny did not even touch her (p.73) and that the defendants tricked her into signing an affidavit claiming Arseny was the father by offering her either ten thousand dollars from one and marriage from the other (p.77). A few sentences later, however, she claimed the defendants were not present when she was tricked by false offers of money and marriage (p.78). The judge then threw out her claim that the defendants had said as much. She then claimed she didn’t know what she was signing, only that she was told to sign something that was “the truth” (p. 81).
In general, Mary Krinitsky comes across as nervous, scared, intimidated, and/or confused. She couldn’t even remember when her own son died, and the child did die (p.89). He lived fourteen to sixteen months. The birth certificate had Krinitsky as the surname, not Pretash (92). She also was not able to remember the name of the priest whose wife she worked for in Simpson during the service at the cemetery. Finally, we learn that one Hrycko Chaly brought her to a notary to sign the affidavit, not the defendants, and that the defendants did not make the false promises stated earlier (p.137). As a related side-note, reading her testimony is painfully slow because translation was a serious issue. She spoke Carpatho-Rusyn. One juror (number nine) could speak Polish and he conversed with her as did the the Russian translator for the court.
Samuel Mendelson was also a witness for the people and he claimed (156-7) that he filed a warrant for Andrew Pretash, after talking to Mary Krinitsky (who was working for him). Judge Mulqueen allowed this to be entered in, though he was concerned for hearsay because this statement was not made in the presence of the defendants. Mendelson was able to state that Mary Krinitsky signed an affidavit so that he (Mendelson) could follow through on procuring a warrant for Andrew Pretash (169). Mendelson’s description of this event is that Yatsko Adamiak, an assistant to Archimandrite Arseny, and Archimandrite Arseny himself paid Mendelson an unannounced visit. They asked to see Mary. Samuel Mendelson called her into the room and they confronted her with the article. She then denied that it was true and the affidavit to that effect was drawn up. This became the second affidavit Mary Krinitsky had signed and one that substantiated her testimony within court.
In Archimandrite Arseny’s favor, both he and Mary Krinitsky deny that the event ever occurred. Assistant DA Garvan is also able to show that although Svoboda might have had an affidavit (Garvan avoids getting into this), Mary Krinitsky signed a subsequent affidavit in which she claimed one Andrew Pretash was the father of the child and had abandoned his legal responsibilities and fled the town (allegedly going to Ohio somewhere).
Relative to the documentation given to the canonization committee from Metropolitan Nikodim, Archimandrite Arseny perjured himself. Smitkin must have known that many (not on the jury) would have believed Archimandrite Arseny had lied and likely Smitkin believed Arseny lied as well. Because Smitkin had no document to contradict Arseny’s testimony, however, the perjury has remained unknown. Overall, things look to be in favor of the DA office. There are cracks in the DA’s case, of course.
Mary Krinitsky was nervous and/or confused. It may well be that she was not the brightest woman and a Carpatho-Rusyn peasant girl could have easily found her role in the American court system intimidating. Another reason for finding the situation intimidating will be raised by the defense’s case shortly. She also does not help her credibility by not being able to say when her son died and not remembering whose house she was working in during the cemetery service event in Simpson. Although it could be a translation problem or simply her being nervous or perhaps a little mentally deficient, it could also be the sign of a witness trying to remember all of the right details of a scripted testimony. Mary claimed, however, that Mendelson never once mentioned the court case or why she was traveling to New York with him. Do we believe her? It is hard for me to imagine he never once mentioned the case and that Mary had no idea why she was going to New York, but that is what the testimony says.
At this point in the trial, what probably is working the most against Arseny in addition to the question of witness credibility (though again, remember, no one at the trial would have known Archimandrite Arseny almost certainly perjured himself) is the time line of events. Mary Krinitsky leaves the monastery at what would have been just after her first trimester had passed. Metropolitan Platon removed Archimandrite Arseny from the Mayfield parish just after the newspaper article went public and Archimandrite Arseny’s timing of his trip to Russia also looks suspicious (February to April, 1907) and when he returns, he is assigned to Canada. None of that proves guilt and the DA’s office has two strong collaborating witnesses in Arseny and Mary but the time line might look a little suspicious to some readers.
Is this enough to demonstrate criminal libel beyond a reasonable doubt? We shall see. In the next posting, I will analyze the defense’s case.
Fr. Oliver Herbel, Executive Director
[This post is cross posted on http://frontierorthodoxy.wordpress.com]
Archbishop Arseny’s Canonization, Part 1: Introducing His Alleged Rape of Mary Krinitsky and the Subsequent Criminal Libel Case
This is the first of a three part series looking into a court case that relates to Archbishop Arseny (1866-1945), who is being considered for canonizatiion as an Orthodox saint by the Orthodox Church in America (OCA).
Those wanting a bit of a biography may check out the OrthodoxWiki entry for him.
Basically, in a nutshell, +Arseny had served as a married priest in Russia until his wife died. In 1902, he came to America and served under St. Tikhon. He was instrumental in founding St. Tikhon’s monastery and the accompanying orphanage. Late in 1908, he was sent to Canada to administer the parishes there. In 1910, he returned to Russia and in 1920, was in a Serbian monastery when some Canadians asked that he return to serve them. In 1926, he was consecrated as the Bishop to Canada. He died in 1945 and is buried at St. Tikhon’s monastery.
At the time of the court case I am about to discuss, Arseny was an Archimandrite in charge of the newly formed St. Tikhon’s Monastery. In June of 1908, Svoboda, a Greek Catholic (Uniate) paper published an article in which the author claimed Archbishop Arseny sexually forced himself upon one Mary Krinitsky on a buggy ride in the middle of the night. She had gone to a dedication of a cemetery near Simpson, PA, but missed her train back home. He offered her a ride and allegedly forced himself upon her after treating her nicely. Allegedly, this was the first occurrence, because after nearly a year later, she gave birth to a son. On the basis of an affidavit signed by Mary Krinitsky herself, Svoboda claimed Archbishop Arseny (whose last name is rendered as Chagovtsov, Chagovets, and/or Chahovtsov in the documents) fathered the child. Archimandrite Arseny filed two libel suits against the paper–one in civil court and the other in criminal court.
These cases and their larger context deserve further exploration. The OCA has a canonization committee established for looking into the life of Archbishop Arseny.
Fr. John Hainsworth has written a life of Archbishop Arseny on behalf of the canonization committee. In an early online version, he provided this intriguing reference:
“Little is known of his first assignments when he arrived except that by his own recollection he worked in parishes in Troy, Mayfield, and Simpson in the Eastern United States. Curiously, his work with the returning Uniats is not mentioned in any of the memorial articles and accounts of his life, even though it was substantial enough to incur a case of libel against him by Uniats frustrated by his success.”
That version is no longer online. His current version omits this.
The Orthodox Wiki page (which borrows directly from Fr. John’s piece) also omits this. I was unable to find any other online or published discussion of this anywhere else. I had originally asked a member of the committee several times over for a copy of any court transcripts and emailed another member about the case as well, but after waiting about a year, I took it upon myself to track down the criminal case. Independently, I obtained a microfilm of the criminal court case that began in January of 1909. I intend to digitize this transcript and place it on SOCHA’s website so that it is readily available to all without delay.
I assure forthright discussion on my end. Although I won’t be sharing news each step of the way as I continue my research, I do want to share with you what I have gleaned from this first transcript. I also want to inform you that I will make this court transcript available on SOCHA’s website in the near future because the interest in this case has been a collective one between those of us on the executive board of SOCHA. You will see nothing but transparency from me, not to mention SOCHA, in this matter. Even if you disagree with my interpretation, I hope you will at least be thankful that you had an opportunity to examine the sources and so disagree!
In the next post, I will provide a general interpretation of what I have in the transcript. In the third post, I’ll simply provide a few mildly amusing quotes from the transcript, to lighten the mood a bit. If I deem it appropriate, I may post a fourth piece, as an addendum, clarifying or correcting as is necessary.
Fr. Oliver Herbel, Executive Director
[This post is cross-posted on http://frontierorthodoxy.wordpress.com]