Jailed Ex-Priest Denies Additional Sex Charges

By Nyier Abdou
Star-Ledger [New Jersey]
November 5, 2006

A former Milford priest who is serving a 15-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting an altar boy has pleaded not guilty to new molestation charges, police said.

The Rev. John M. Banko, 60, of Hamilton, was back in court Friday facing new charges that, while a pastor in Hunterdon County, he as saulted another boy under the age of 16, Hunterdon County First Assistant Prosecutor Steven Lember said.

Although Banko has not formally applied for a public defender, one stood with him Friday to enter a plea of not guilty on charges of first-degree aggravated sexual as sault and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child, Lember said.

Banko, known to his parishioners as "Father Jack," was convicted in December 2002 of performing oral sex on an 11-year-old altar boy in the sacristy of a Roman Catholic church's community center after two Sunday Masses more than a decade ago.

In September, while serving at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, Banko was indicted on charges he abused another boy while serving as pastor on or around Sept. 1, 1994, and May 15, 1995.

Though authorities have never said at which church the incidents occurred, Banko served as pastor at St. Edward's Roman Catholic Church in Milford for six years be fore the Diocese of Metuchen removed him and sent him to Mary Mother of God Church in Hillsborough in 1995. He was removed from the ministry on April 6, 2000.

Lember said there is no reason to believe more charges will be filed against Banko.

"I know of no imminent indictments or complaints," Lember said yesterday.

If convicted on the new charges, Banko faces up to 30 years in prison on top of his current sen tence, police said.


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