Cleric Arraigned on Sex Assault Charges; Dismissal Requested

By Christopher Callahan
Associated Press
February 12, 1986

A Roman Catholic priest was arraigned Wednesday on charges of sexually assaulting teen-age boys, and his attorney asked the court to dismiss the case, which has been brought three times.

The Rev. Armand V. Ventre, 54, was released on $30,000 bond on one count each of second-degree child molestation, second-degree sexual assault and simple assault.

Innocent pleas were submitted for the gray-haired, bearded priest, who wore his black clerical robes and carried a book titled "Christ Among Us" as he stood before Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Caldarone Jr.

The state alleges that Ventre assaulted three boys at his summer home in nearby Glocester in 1983 and 1984, when the boys were in their early teens.

Defense attorney John F. Sheehan said prosecutors had violated Ventre's right to due process by bringing the charges three times.

The priest only helped the boys take baths after they swam in a lake with brackish water, Sheehan said. "If that's assault, a lot of people are in trouble," the defense attorney said.

Ventre, pastor of Our Lady of Good Help Church in Burrillville, northwest of Providence, was indicted in July on three counts of second-degree sexual assault after another grand jury failed to indict him, Sheehan said.

Last month prosecutors dropped the charges because of what they referred to as a technicality. Special Assistant Attorney General Robert Craven said a three-year statute of limitations expired on one of the sexual assault charges.

The charges, with a simple assault count now replacing one of the sexual assault charges, were reinstated without going through another grand jury.

Sheehan said the state's actions of bringing the charges three times clearly violated Ventre's due process rights. "I feel it's got to stop somewhere," he said.

Caldarone, who arraigned the priest, referred the request to Superior Court Judge John E. Orton III.

The dismissal motion should be argued in several weeks, said Assistant Attorney General Joseph Ippolito, who declined comment on the motion. A pretrial hearing was set for March 26.

Ventre, who was on a leave of absence since the indictment, was reinstated as pastor after the prosecution dropped the charges last month.

But the Diocese of Providence said he took another leave Jan. 30 after the charges were reinstated.


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