Judge Orders Priest Held in Child-sex Case
November 14, 2014
A federal judge reversed an earlier decision to grant home detention to a Pennsylvania priest and on Friday ordered him held until trial on charges of traveling to Honduras for sex with poor street children during missionary trips.
The judge cited new allegations against the Rev. Joseph Maurizio that investigators say could result in more charges, and suggested that the 69-year-old priest had concealed considerable assets.
The hearing before U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson in Johnstown was held after federal prosecutors appealed a magistrate's order to release Maurizio to home detention as long as his bank accounts were frozen and he was unable to access church-related funds. Prosecutors argued the 69-year-old priest was a flight risk.
Maurizio has been jailed since September, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him. A criminal complaint accuses Maurizio of giving boys candy and money while on mission trips so he could molest them — including performing a sex act on a 14-year-old in a chapel — or watch the boys have sex.
Maurizio has pleaded not guilty.
In his order Friday, Gibson cited testimony from investigators that federal agents recently uncovered two additional victims who allege that Maurizio engaged in sexual conduct with them while they were minors. A Department of Homeland Security agent also testified that, on Thursday, investigators learned that Honduran police had fielded three complaints over the past two years that Maurizio had solicited sexual conduct with children, Gibson wrote.
Honduran authorities have issued an arrest warrant for Maurizio, Gibson wrote, citing the agent's testimony.
In addition, Gibson wrote that he was troubled that Maurizio did not disclose all of his assets to a pretrial services officer after his arrest. The officer had estimated Maurizio's net worth to be $107,900, based on information from Maurizio, Gibson wrote. But an Internal Revenue Service agent testified in front of Gibson that Maurizio has assets in excess of $1 million, the judge wrote.
Maurizio has been placed on leave from the Somerset County church he pastored.