N.j Priest Charged with Violating Ban on Working with Kids Appears in Court
By Mark Mueller
May 21, 2013
HACKENSACK — Wearing a bright orange jump suit with the letters "BCJ Prisoner" on the back, the priest at the center of the furor in the archdiocese in Newark made his first court appearance this morning on charges he violated a court-sanctioned ban on working with children.
The Rev. Michael Fugee, 52, stood for the brief hearing as Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Demetra Maurice read the seven counts against him.
Maurice, assistant chief of the special victims unit, is the prosecutor who authored the agreement with Fugee and the Archdiocese of Newark in 2007. It bars him from working with children in any capacity as long as he remains a priest.
Fugee made no comments during the five-minute hearing and did not have an attorney present. His arms and legs shackled, he stared directly at the wood-paneled wall in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Patrick Roma as more than a dozen members of the media looked on.
Bob Hoatson, a former priest in the Newark Archdiocese and head of a New Jersey support group called Road to Recovery, watched from the courtroom's gallery.
"I'm here to see a 10-year attempt to hold Fugee and the archdiocese accountable after they have been coddling him and moving him from place to place, and then arrogantly proclaiming he's an innocent man," Hoatson said. "The review board that returned him to ministry should be disbanded, and we need a broom to sweep the archdiocese clean."
Bail remains at $25,000 with a 10 percent option. The charges will next be presented before a grand jury, which will consider whether to indict Fugee.
Fugee, whose attendance at youth retreats and other events involving minors was disclosed in a series of articles in The Star-Ledger in recent weeks, was arrested by members of the special victims unit of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office at St. Antoninus Parish in Newark Monday evening, a statement from the prosecutor’s office said.
Fugee — who was granted a leave from ministry this month but remains a priest in the archdiocese — was charged with seven counts of contempt of a judicial order, a fourth-degree crime that carries a maximum prison term of 18 months.
The Bergen County investigators, who launched a probe after the newspaper alerted them to Fugee’s interactions with children, found the priest heard confessions from minors at youth retreats along Lake Hopatcong in April 2010 and at the Kateri Environmental Center in Marlboro in September 2010 and again in September 2012.
Fugee, who admitted in 2001 to fondling the genitals of a teenage boy while wrestling with him, also heard confessions from minors at a parishioner’s home in Bayville, at Our Lady of Visitation Parish in Paramus and at Sacred Heart Church in Rochelle Park on two occasions, the statement said.