Priest Gets 16 Years for Sexual Assault of Boy
But Within 4 Years, He's Eligible for Parole
By Derrick Nunnally email@example.com
Journal Sentinel Online
November 9, 2004
A Catholic priest who admitted to repeated sexual assaults of a Milwaukee boy in the early 1990s was sentenced to 16 years in prison Tuesday but may be released as soon as 2008.
Father Simon Palathingal, 62, needed to spend at least four years in prison for his crimes, said Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Karen Christenson, to get treatment for being a sexual offender. The boy was 9 and 10 years old when Palathingal, who was studying at Marquette University, assaulted him covertly while attending the boy's family gatherings as a respected friend in social gatherings.
"You betrayed his trust," Christenson told Palathingal. "You abused your power, and you destroyed his faith and the faith of his family."
Palathingal, a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order, was arrested in July in South Amboy, N.J., where he had been living and working as a priest. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child in an arrangement that included dropping two additional charges. He knew the boy, Nick Janovsky, through another priest, Father Dennis Pecore, who was convicted in 1994 of abusing Janovsky, his nephew.
Janovsky, now 23, stared toward Palathingal on Tuesday as a prosecutor read an explicit description of the specific abuses. Janovsky's relatives bowed their heads during the description, and some embraced each other tightly to endure the graphic details.
Then Janovsky told Christenson he wanted the priest to get something near the maximum possible sentence of 40 years behind bars, more if it were somehow possible.
"That would be the only way to guarantee that this man would not harm other children," Janovsky said.
Instead, the judge gave Palathingal two 16-year sentences to serve at the same time. That was less than the 20 years Assistant District Attorney Gale Shelton had requested, but more than the five to six years Palathingal's attorney, Edward Hunt, had suggested.
Under laws in place at the time of the offenses, Palathingal will be eligible for parole after four years. Janovsky said afterward he was "disappointed" Palathingal might return to society within a few years.
"I think it's a mistake," Janovsky said. "This man should be locked up for 16 years and not have access to children."
Palathingal appeared drawn and passive behind his thick glasses. The slight, gray-haired priest had initially told detectives that 9-year-old Janovsky had instigated the sex acts, but the priest recanted that in court. He said he had questioned his own faith during the five months in jail.
"I have hurt and harmed a kid, Nick Janovsky, through my own selfishness," Palathingal said. "This is how God wants me to pay for it.
"No matter how much I have suffered or will suffer, my pain pales in comparison with what Mr. Janovsky has endured all those years."
Palathingal said he hopes to get out of prison and return to his native India as a priest. That drew criticism outside the courtroom from Peter Isely of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. "When he gets out, he's going to be able to get right back in the pulpit, get right back in the schools," Isely said.
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