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  3 N.J. Clerics Don't Recall Accuser

By Brian T. Murray
The Star-Ledger [Newark, New Jersey]
June 27, 2002

Three New Jersey priests accused by a North Carolina woman of molesting her when she was a teenage girl in Union County said through their lawyers yesterday that they do not know the woman and do not recall having met her when she was a child.

In separate statements, attorneys for the Revs. Bruno Ugliano, Edward Eilert and Joseph Rice said none of the accused clerics has any recollection of ever meeting the woman in the early 1980s, when she claims they sexually abused her.

The 38-year-old woman, who has asked not to be identified, contends the incidents began when she was 14 and a member of a Union County church youth group. She said she was first abused by Rice after seeking solace at St. John's Church in Linden about her dying mother.

"Father Rice doesn't know the woman," said Gerald Krovatin, the attorney for Rice. "And it's not a case of him not recollecting the events she is alleging. He is saying that the events never occurred, and if he ever met this person, he doesn't recall it."

The woman contends she met Ugliano and Eilert later at Catholic Youth Organization events at their parishes and in rural retreats. Eilert was then monsignor at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Mountainside and Ugliano was at St. Elizabeth's Church in Linden.

"He is not familiar with this woman's name. He doesn't know her," said Tim Donohue, Eilert's attorney. "He absolutely denies these allegations, and we are confident that any independent body will conclude that Father Eilert is completely innocent of the charges."

Attorney Michael Critchley, who is representing Ugliano, said his client also does not recall ever meeting the woman.

The woman's lawyer, Gregory Gianforcaro, said his client stands behind her allegations.

"Her details of the events are extremely clear," he said.

Even if the accusations against the priests are substantiated, the alleged crimes may have occurred too long ago to be prosecuted, according to authorities in Union County. But the priests still face the possibility of internal reviews that could affect their ability to continue performing as clerics.

Rice was serving as chaplain at Bergen Regional Health Care Center in Paramus but voluntarily stepped down when the charges surfaced weeks ago. Eilert, who was pastor at St. Philomena's Church in Livingston, did the same.

Ugliano continued to serve as Catholic chaplain at Rider University in Lawrenceville until yesterday, just days after the woman went public with her claims.

On Tuesday, St. Mary's Abbey in Mendham, where Ugliano is a member of the Order of St. Benedict, announced that no action would be taken against him until an internal review of the charges is complete.

But yesterday, Bishop John M. Smith of the Trenton Diocese, which funds the chaplain's post at Rider, announced that Ugliano would be leaving the university.

 
 

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