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  Accused Priests Won't Face Criminal Charges in Mercer County

Associated Press
June 17, 2002

Eight current or former Roman Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse in Mercer County will not face criminal charges because the cases are beyond the statute of limitations, prosecutors said Monday.

Many dioceses around the nation have dealt with the swelling scandal over clergy sexual misconduct by handing over records of alleged incidents to law enforcement.

And many prosecutors, including those in Camden, Burlington and Ocean counties, have found that the state statute of limitations prevents them from filing charges.

In New Jersey, charges must be filed within five years of the alleged conduct or by the time the victim turns 20, whichever is later.

While Mercer County Prosecutor Daniel G. Giaquinto announced that the priests there will not be charged, he described the alleged assaults.

He said most cases involved ongoing incidents rather than a single assault. The complaints alleged kissing, fondling, mutual masturbation, oral sex and sodomy. Some of the victims said the priests used alcohol, marijuana and pornography to seduce them.

Eight priests were named by the Diocese of Trenton when it forwarded cases to Giaquinto. Four more were named by victims who contacted his office on their own.

Of the 12, three have died and five have left the priesthood.

One of the 12 - Jean Level Eliscard - pleaded guilty in 1995 to charges that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl. Eliscard now lives in Haiti.

Giaquinto said Eliscard's case was the only one reported to the diocese while the victim was under 18. He said the diocese did not violate a state law that requires any allegation of sexual assault of children be reported to authorities.

 
 

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