|Priest Rejects Deal on Abuse Charges
John Banko Already Serving Time for Molesting Altar Boy
By Andrea Eilenberger
June 2, 2007
Flemington - A former Milford priest already serving time for molesting an altar boy isn't willing to accept a plea agreement for the latest abuse charges he's facing.
The Rev. John Banko is accused of sexually assaulting a boy younger than 13.
Defense attorney Peter Abatemarco said after a court proceeding Friday that Banko isn't interested in a deal.
"He wants to go trial," Abatemarco said.
Both Abatemarco and Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Solari declined to discuss the terms of the agreement. The terms were not discussed during Friday's proceeding.
Abatemarco said it is unlikely Banko will testify in a new trial.
A pre-trial conference is scheduled 1:30 p.m. June 22, when a trial date could be scheduled.
Banko allegedly assaulted the boy 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 charges.
Banko was convicted in a 2002 trial of molesting an 11-year-old boy in the early 1990s. He is serving a 15-year sentence in the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, N.J.
Solari considered seeking permission to include testimony from other men who claim Banko also abused them, but said Friday that is no longer the case. Most recently, a man who claimed to be a victim of Banko and indicated interest in participating in the case dropped out of contact with the prosecutor's office, Solari said.
During the first trial, three men besides the victim testified Banko gave them fancy dinners and alcohol before trying to molest them. Charges were never filed on those allegations.
Reporter Andrea Eilenberger can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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