Disgraced Catholic priest loses appeal of 'sex tourism' convictions for molesting orphans
By Matt Miller
July 25, 2017
|Joseph D. Maurizio Jr.|
A former Catholic priest from Somerset County who was convicted of engaging in "sexual tourism" to molest poor orphans in Honduras has lost an appeal of his nearly 17-year prison sentence.
That defeat came this week when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit rejected Joseph D. Maurizio Jr.'s claims that he didn't receive a fair trial.
Maurizio, now 72, has consistently denied abusing children he met through ProNino Honduras, a charitable organization he co-founded in 1999. ProNino received considerable financial support from Maurizio's parishioners and others who donated to another charity he created, Honduras Interfaith Ministries.
The Maurizio case is just one of scores of sex-abuse allegations leveled at priests and other religious leaders in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown.
In the opinion denying Maurizio's appeal, Circuit Judge Thomas I. Vanaskie cited findings of investigators that the priest for years had been paying boys for sex and/or offering them money for sex acts.
Allegations of financial and sexual irregularities and drug abuse tarnished ProNino's reputation in 2009 and the agency eventually passed to other organizers.
When ProNino changed hands, investigators said several boys testified that Maurizio had molested them, Vanaski noted. He also cited findings that Maurizio had used funds collected through Honduras Interfaith Ministries for his personal use.
Agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found photos of nude boys swimming on a computer in the rectory of Maurizio's parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Vanaskie wrote. Also found on the computer were images of naked boys on a bed.
A federal grand jury indicted Maurizio on multiple criminal charges, including engaging in sexual tourism and possessing child pornography. He was later convicted and then sentenced in March 2016.
His sentencing coincided with an announcement by former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane that an investigative grand jury had concluded at least 50 priests and other religious leaders from the eight-county Altoona-Johnstown diocese had molested hundreds of children over the past 40 years. Kane claimed diocese leaders had concealed the abuse.
The grand jury report prompted diocese officials to promise reforms that were announced earlier this year.