ORD — A jury trial will begin Jan. 6 in Valley County District Court in Ord for a Catholic priest charged with committing sexual assault in November of 2018.

The Rev. John Kakkuzhiyil is charged with committing sexual assault/forcible-first degree. That crime is a Class 2 felony. The alleged victim is an adult woman who lives in Ord.

Until December of 2018, Kakkuzhiyil was pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ord and Sacred Heart in Burwell.

Sixteen people are on the witness list for the jury trial, slated to begin at 9 a.m. The trial is scheduled to run four days, District Court Judge Karin Noakes wrote in her order on pretrial motions and the jury trial.

Kakkuzhiyil is accused of committing the crime on Nov. 22, 2018, in Ord. According to an affidavit, his accuser requested a protection order on Nov. 26, 2018, and it was served on the priest Nov. 27.

On Dec. 1, 2018, Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt of the Grand Island Diocese offered Mass in Ord and Burwell asking the parishioners to pray for Kakkuzhiyil for his continuing struggles with depression and alcoholism.

Kakkuzhiyil entered the CHI St. Francis Drug and Alcohol Treatment Program on Dec. 6 and was dismissed from the program on Jan. 2.

When Hanefeldt learned there was an ongoing investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol regarding Kakkuzhiyil, he placed the priest on administrative leave Dec. 15, 2018, according to a statement from the diocese.

Kakkuzhiyil, 63, is represented by Mark Porto of Grand Island. The prosecutor in the case is George Welch of Lincoln.

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