Witness Says He Saw Priest Molest Three Other Boys
By Dave Sutor
September 11, 2015
|Todd Berkey/The Tribune-democrat|
A?22-year-old man identified only as Erick said he was loading supplies for the Honduras orphanage he called home when the Rev. Joseph Maurizio Jr. touched him in a sexual manner.
“I?got scared,”?Erick testified through an interpreter Friday during Maurizio’s trial in U.S. District Court in Johnstown.
Later the same day in 2009, he said, Maurzio touched him again while the two were in a pickup truck. That time, Maurizio asked him to masturbate for him.
“Father Joe” gave him money after each incident, Erick testified.
Maurizio, 60, is accused of using his charity, Humanitarian Interfaith Ministries Inc., and its funds to travel to the ProNino complexes in Honduras to prey on children. Federal counts include possession of child pornography and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place.
Earlier Friday, a man testified he saw Maurizio molest Erick and two other teens the first day he met the former Central City priest.
“I felt bad for him,”?the witness, identified only as Luis, said after testifying he saw Maurizio put his hand into Erick’s pants in the pickup truck.
“He was doing something that was not right,” Luis said.
Calmly and thoughtfully, Luis testified through the interpreter that later the same day, he saw Maurizio having sex with one boy in a church and another boy behind one of the compound’s dormitories.
Several of the boys from the ProNino Honduras orphanage near El Progreso, Honduras, were helping Maurizio move items from a shipping container to the church that day, Luis testified.
At one point, he heard Maurizio call one of the boy into the church and shut the church doors, he said.
“It was taking too long,”?Luis said, explaining that he went around the church to look in a window.
There he saw the boy with his pants down and saw Maurizio taking pictures. As he continued to watch, he said he saw Maurizio and the boy having sex.
Later, he noticed Maurizio and a third boy behind a dormitory building. When he went around the building, he say the two having sex, he testified.
Erick also testified he and two other boys were “snooping” behind the church, looked in and saw the boy with his pants down.
“We didn’t see Father Joe,”? he testified. “We were afraid, so we left.”
Defense attorney Steven Passarello pointed out Luis testified all the events happened in the same day and pressed the witness about the time frame from the first incident to the third.
“I don’t remember,” Luis said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Haines asked both men if they told teachers or other adults about the abuse.
Both said they had not until much later.
“I was embarrassed and afraid,” Erick said.
Earlier testimony on Friday showed hundreds of thousands of photographs found on Maurizio’s computers included two photos of a nude young boy lying on a filthy mattress inside a cluttered room.
Agent Molly Rock of Homeland Security Investigations explained where photos were filed on the computers. The subfolder containing the nude boy included “recycle” in its title.
Although the boy was not identified, other photos showed Luis, Erick and other boys that Rock identified as witnesses she interviewed who are scheduled to testify against Maurizio.
Passarello pressed Rock on her knowledge of an FBI investigation into Maurizio, showing a document he said recommended closing the investigation due to a lack of additional evidence. Rock said she had not seen the recommendation.
Prosecutor Amy Larson, U.S. trial attorney, asked Rock about her knowledge of the FBI probe.
“The FBI did not have an office in Honduras,”?she said.
“Their ability to investigate in the country would have been limited.”
FBI agents did not interview any of the alleged victims, and investigators for ProNino’s internal probe and had no training in interviewing possible victims, Rock said.
ProNino USA’s treasurer, Tim Covington, described Maurzio’s Humanitarian Interfaith Ministries as a major contributor to the organization, which primarily raised funds for ProNino Honduras.
Covington is the son-in-law of ProNino USA longtime directors Betty and George Mealer. All have since been “pushed out,”?he told reporters after his testimony.
Each time Maurizio traveled to Honduras, he had Covington make sure he had a significant amount of cash available when he arrived in the country, Covington said, adding he did not know how he cash was used.
Under cross examination by Passarello, Covington conceded he did not know if Maurizio was the one who actually picked up the cash.
Rock’s testimony Friday morning included documents listing alleged victims, their ages and dates at the ProNino orphanage.
Passarello asked Rock if authorities obtained any DNA?or medical evidence to prove the abuse. She said they had not.
Larson then asked Rock to explain why she did not expect to find the physical evidence.
“It has been far too long,”?Rock said, reminding jurors her investigation began in 2014.
There also were emails sent by Maurizio to Humanitarian Interfaith Ministries board members and others.
In one 2006 message, he told a Robert Hegemann after returning from Honduras, “I don’t understand why I did so many evil things. It brings out the worst in me.”