New Claim in Banko Case
Alleged Victim Says He Was Molested. Former Milford Cleric to Be Tried in Separate Abuse Case

By Andrea Eilenberger
The Express-Times [Pennsylvania]
May 7, 2007

Flemington — Another alleged victim of a former Milford priest has contacted Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Solari, who may introduce his testimony in an upcoming sex assault trial.

Solari said in court Friday she plans to obtain a formal statement from the man who claims he was abused by the Rev. John Banko. Banko is already serving time for molesting an altar boy, and he was indicted last year on charges he molested another young boy.

"Just late last week an individual contacted me indicating he had been victimized in the past," Solari said.

Solari plans to meet with the latest alleged victim next week and obtain a taped statement. He also told Solari one of his friends claims he was abused by Banko.

Banko's defense attorney, Peter Abatemarco, plans to meet with Banko to discuss the new allegations and their potential use in a trial.

A court proceeding, sometimes called a "prior bad acts" hearing, would be held in order for a judge to determine whether the testimony would be admissible in the trial. Solari expects to have a better idea by June 1, Banko's next scheduled court date, as to whether she will seek that kind of hearing.

During Banko's 2002 molestation trial, three men besides the victim testified Banko plied them with lavish dinners and alcohol before trying to molest them. Charges were never filed on those allegations. Solari had been considering introducing similar testimony from other men in Banko's pending trial but has not filed a motion to do so.

She said the latest alleged victim has never testified against Banko.

Banko is facing charges he abused a boy younger than 13 between Sept. 1, 1994 and May 15, 1995 when he served as pastor of St. Edward the Confessor Roman Catholic Church. He is facing first-degree aggravated sexual assault and child endangerment.

Solari also shared with Abatemarco a report on physical evidence of the alleged abuse prepared by the Child Protection Center, a state-run diagnostic center. Although she declined to elaborate on the report Friday, she has previously said the boy's medical records from the time of the alleged abuse indicate some injuries and symptoms.

Banko is serving a 15-year sentence at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, N.J.

So far, attorneys in the case say Banko has refused a plea agreement.

Abatemarco said he wants to go to the "institution to sit down with him" and discuss the agreement Solari offered.

The terms of the agreement were not stated in court and Solari declined to discuss it after the proceeding.

Reporter Andrea Eilenberger can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at


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