Suspended Priest to Face Trial on Indecent Assault Charges
May 27, 2014
A suspended priest from the Diocese of Scranton will face trial on sex crime charges.
Father Philip Altavilla was in court Tuesday for allegedly having indecent contact with a 13-year-old girl in 1998.
Altavilla's accuser came forward last month, 16 years after the incident allegedly took place.
The woman came face-to-face with Altavilla in the courtroom Tuesday, where she described how his actions made her feel.
She used words: very uncomfortable, confused, upset and hurt.
After listening to testimony during the preliminary hearing, a magistrate ruled all the charges will be forwarded onto trial.
"This is just step one in what will be a long process," Deputy District Attorney Jennifer McCambridge said. "We knew that going forward. The victim knew that."
Father Altavilla's accuser says he had indecent contact with her in 1998, while he was pastor at Saint Patrick's Parish in Scranton.
She claims the contact happened after Midnight Mass on Christmas morning.
The woman says it started when her, Father Altavilla and two other adults drank two one-gallon bottles of red wine from Rome.
When Altavilla allegedly gave her a ride home, she claims he pulled over and touched her feet, massaging them up her legs to her thighs until she told him to stop.
Altavilla had supporters in the courtroom Tuesday.
"I really think that this is all nonsense, if you ask me, it's just like this happened 16 years ago," parishoner Billy Nolan said.
Altavilla said nothing leaving court but his attorney challenged whether the leg rubbing was "sexual."
"How do you defend yourself when there's an accusation raised that something occurred in 1998 and it's now 2014? That's where I have a problem," defense attorney Paul Walker said.
Detectives say the touching was indecent because Altavilla allegedly said it gave him sexual gratification.
"I think his own admissions are going to be a very important part of this case and moving forward I think the charges will stand," McCambridge said.
Altavilla's accuser, who was just 13-years-old at the time of the indecent contact, says she probably drank six or seven glasses of wine when the incident happened.
A detective testified that he found pictures of her feet in Altavilla's room at the rectory of Saint Peter's Cathedral, where Altavilla was working at the time of his arrest.
Altavilla has been suspended from priestly ministry by the Diocese of Scranton.
He remains free on bail.