Pa. Authorities Never Monitored Former Md. Priest

Associated Press
August 14, 2002

Authorities have never monitored a former Roman Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse who moved from Maryland to Pennsylvania, officials said.

Robert J. Petrella, 64, was briefly jailed for abuse and has been recently charged with further attacks. Though a Maryland judge freed Petrella in 1997 on the condition that he be supervised by parole officers, Pennsylvania officials told The Express-Times of Easton that he has been living in the state without state supervision.

"Pennsylvania has never supervised this man," said Lauren Taylor, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Parole Board. "We've never accepted supervision of Mr. Petrella. He is not registered under Megan's Law."

Petrella has been living in Easton for two years, neighbors said.

Petrella, who served at St. Columba Catholic Church in Oxon Hill, Md., was dismissed from the priesthood in 1989 over an allegation of abuse during the 1970s.

After the accuser spoke to police, Petrella was indicted in 1997 on four counts of sex abuse and offered a plea deal on a misdemeanor battery count. He entered a plea in which he did not admit guilt but conceded prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict.

Petrella received a six-month jail sentence, which was later cut to seven days.

Maryland Circuit Court Judge Richard H. Sothoron Jr. freed Petrella in 1997 on the condition that he would be supervised in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

Taylor said the Board refused to admit Petrella to Pennsylvania or supervise his parole in 1998. But Petrella moved to Easton in spite of the order.

Since then, two more men have said Petrella fondled them when they were 11 and 14 years old. The alleged attacks also happened in the 1960s.

Petrella was charged Monday with two counts of perverted practice, and released on his own recognizance. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.


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