Priest Removed from Southern Illinois Church Will Not Face Charges

Associated Press State & Local Wire
May 8, 2002

The Catholic priest removed from a southern Illinois church over a 27-year-old allegation of sexual misconduct will not be criminally charged, a New Jersey prosecutor said Wednesday.

John Kaye, the Monmouth County prosecutor, said the Rev. Edward Balestrieri will not "under any circumstances" face charges that he touched an 11-year-old boy inappropriately while working in that state in 1975.

The Trenton Diocese in New Jersey had sent Kaye a report with an allegation made on April 16 by a New Jersey woman, who said Balestrieri had "inappropriately touched" her son, who is now 38.

Kaye, whose office did not investigate the case, said he will not file charges because a five-year statute of limitations has run out, and because there is no evidence linking the priest to a crime.

"If this case happened last year it would still be almost impossible to prove," he said. "There's no evidence."

The alleged victim has not made an allegation, so what's left is "double hearsay," Kaye said.

"Father Ed," as parishioners at St. Mary's Church in Sesser call their pastor, was removed April 30 after the Trenton Diocese informed the Belleville Diocese of the accusation.

Church officials say Balestrieri, 71, is at an undisclosed location on administrative leave while they conduct an investigation. They have declined to say what information they have about the allegations or to allow the priest to speak to the media.

The Belleville Diocese referred questions on the case Wednesday to Monsignor James Margason, who said he has spoken to the administrator of the diocese board reviewing the case. "It's clear to me they do believe there is enough evidence to believe the allegation is credible," Margason said.

The second phase of the church's investigation will begin soon, he said. Officials will review evidence and "professional evaluations," he said, and decide whether the priest can return to the ministry.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.