Retired Howell Priest Charged in Sex Abuse of Girl: Authorities
By Karen Wall
September 20, 2019
A retired priest who served at St. Veronica Roman Catholic Church in Howell has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting an underage girl in the late 1990s, authorities announced late Friday afternoon.
Father Brendan Williams, 78, of Lawrence, was arrested Friday and charged with second-degree sexual assault, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni announced.
Williams is accused of touching the intimate parts of the girl with his hand on at least three occasions from 1997 to 1999, authorities said. The girl was younger than 13 years old, they said.
St. Veronica was the last parish where Williams was pastor, according to information released by the Diocese of Trenton in February. Williams, who was ordained in 1965 had "multiple" credible accusations, the diocese said, and was removed from the ministry, though a 2012 report by the diocese publication the Trenton Monitor says he retired.
At least two of the incidents with the girl happened in Colts Neck and one happened at an unspecified location in Ocean County, authorities said.
Williams is the second priest to be charged in criminal cases filed by the New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force, which was formed in September 2018 to investigate allegations of clergy abuse.
Williams lives in a retirement community for Catholic clergy in Lawrence Township. The investigation began with a call to the Clergy Abuse Task Force Hotline.
"No person is above the law and we want survivors to know that, despite the passage of time, justice may still be within reach," Grewal said. "We will do everything in our power to hold their abusers accountable."
Last month the Clergy Abuse Task Force secured a four-year prison sentence for another Catholic priest, Thomas Ganley, who sexually assaulted a teenage girl over whom he had supervisory authority in the early 1990s at Saint Cecelia Church in Iselin, N.J.
"Many victims of clergy abuse have been forced to suffer in silence for extended periods of time and this trauma has cast a shadow over their lives," Gramiccioni said. "We hope that bringing charges against predatory clergy members will bring some measure of peace to those who have been victimized."
Survivors of sexual abuse and witnesses to these cases are urged to call the state's clergy abuse hotline: 855-363-6548. The hotline is staffed by trained professionals and operated on a 24/7 basis. More than 540 calls have been received through the hotline to date.
The investigation of Williams is active and ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call Sgt. Michael Magliozzo or Detective Thomas Manzo of the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office at 732-431-7160. Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fichter is prosecuting the case.