Ex-Priest Declines Deal on Charges in Motel Case

By Jeff Diamant
The Star-Ledger [New Jersey]
December 12, 2006

James Hanley, the former Catholic priest who admitted molesting about a dozen boys in what was New Jersey's most notorious clergy sex abuse case, declined a prosecutor's plea offer yesterday on charges in an unrelated March inci dent at a Secaucus motel.

Hanley, 70, appeared yesterday afternoon in Hudson County Superior Court for a brief hearing, shackled and wearing a green jail uniform and walking with a cane. He has been jailed since late October, when a warrant was issued for his arrest for missing a court date, Assistant Prosecutor Howard Bell said.

Hanley was indicted in June on charges of possessing a weapon for an unlawful purpose and making terroristic threats, Bell said. He will remain in jail until his next court date, Jan. 22, unless he can post his $50,000 bail, which has a 10 percent cash option.

Authorities say that on March 10 Hanley swung a bat at three employees at the Extended Stay Motel in Secaucus. An officer drew his gun and ordered Hanley to drop the bat, but Hanley did not, prosecutors say. Instead, Hanley turned around and started to walk away, still holding the bat, prosecutors say.

The officer put his gun back in his holster, kicked Hanley's legs out from under him and arrested him, prosecutors say.

The deal discussed in court yesterday would have involved probation and 364 days in jail, Bell said.

Hanley's lawyer, John Conbery, could not be reached late yesterday afternoon for comment.

Hanley, who admitted molesting boys between 1968 and 1982, never spent a day in jail for that abuse, largely because nobody told police until statutes of limitations had expired. He was formally removed from the priesthood in 2002.

Last year, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson reached a $5 million settlement with 21 people who said Hanley abused them. In court papers, the former priest has admitted abusing about a dozen boys -- masturbating and showering with them and engaging in oral sex.

Most of the victims were parishioners at the Church of St. Joseph in Mendham when Hanley was a priest there.

He no longer has formal ties to the Paterson Diocese, save for a monthly stipend he receives.

Many of Hanley's victims have followed the motel case closely, hoping to see their abuser jailed. None was in court yesterday, though the parents of one victim, Mark Serrano, were there.

"He's finally in a place where kids can't be harmed by him," Mark Serrano said. "I don't know for how long, though."

Jeff Diamant covers religion. He may be reached at or (973) 392-1547.


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