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Forish to Again Face Charges to Remove 'Cloud' of Doubt
Prostitution-Related Charges Are Refiled Against Priest
DA Says Court Action Is Needed to List Cloud After Earlier Case Against Monsignor Forish Was Dismissed

By Phil Boyle
Morning Call
November 5, 1996

Three prostitution-related charges were refiled yesterday by Bethlehem police against Monsignor Stephen Forish, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church in East Allentown.

Bethlehem police expect Forish to be arraigned today on charges of promoting prostitution, criminal attempt to commit the crime of patronizing prostitutes and criminal attempt to promote prostitution of children.

"It would leave a cloud hanging over the head of the judicial system, and it would leave a cloud hanging over the head of Monsignor Forish" if the charges were not refiled, said Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli during a news conference yesterday at the courthouse.

"It would be inappropriate for this matter not to be refiled. There is no basis for my office not to refile the charges," he said.

The original charges against Forish, also coordinator of anti-abortion activities for the Allentown Catholic Diocese, were dismissed by District Justice Nancy Matos Gonzales of Bethlehem on Oct. 15 when two key witnesses failed to appear and testify at a preliminary hearing that day.

The witnesses, a brother and sister from Bethlehem, will show up to testify against Forish in a new hearing, Morganelli said.

John Spirk, one of Forish's lawyers, said he has a witness to counter the prosecution.

"We located another witness that has a different version of what Monsignor Forish was doing on the South Side of Bethlehem that night," said Spirk, who watched Morganelli's news conference.

"We will be happy to tell our side of the case ... Truth will prevail and Forish will be found not guilty of the charges."

Forish was arrested Sept. 22 after he drove up to a man at Mechanic and Hobart streets and asked if he was interested in sex for money, police said.

When the man said no, Forish allegedly asked if he knew any 15-year-old boys who would be interested.

The man, who at the time identified himself to police as Luis Torres, 22, of 1173 Mechanic St., was later found to be Angel Figueroa, 21, who was wanted on a bench warrant for a parole violation that stemmed from drug charges.

Figueroa and his sister, Milagros, of the same address failed to appear at the Oct. 15 hearing. The sister had told police she witnessed what went on between Forish and her brother.

Police found Figueroa on Oct. 23 at his mother's home at 1232B Lebanon St. and arrested him on the parole violation warrant. He is being held in Northampton County Prison without bail.

"I personally met with Figueroa to determine why he did not attend the hearing and interviewed him again," Morganelli said. He said Figueroa and his sister have agreed to testify.

The district attorney said he met with Forish's attorneys, Spirk and Anthony Blasco. Morganelli said they supplied him with information that he requested. He would not say what that information was.

Spirk said they discussed the credibility of Figueroa as a witness and the refiling of the charges "on the word of a tainted witness, a witness who lied about his name at least."

Morganelli said, "It's my view that this matter can only be fairly resolved in a court of law. We may have factual differences, and that is exactly what the jury system and the court system are designed to resolve."

Bethlehem Police Commissioner John Yerk said the charges were refiled against Forish yesterday afternoon by Patrolman Chris Bennick before District Justice Diane Repyneck of Lower Saucon Township. He said Forish is expected to appear before Repyneck with his attorneys today to be arraigned.

 
 

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