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  Priest Accused of Fondling 2 Teen Boys Surrenders

Associated Press State & Local Wire
August 13, 2003

A priest accused of fondling two teenage boys when they worked in a rectory has surrendered, Union County authorities said Wednesday.

The Rev. Hadmels DeFrias turned himself in at 11 a.m. Tuesday to the Union County Prosecutor's Office in Elizabeth after learning of the charges, the office said.

DeFrias, 32, of Forestville, Md., faces charges of criminal sexual contact.

He was released from the Union County Jail after posting $7,500 bail, said his lawyer, Anthony J. Iacullo.

"Our client denies the allegations in their entirety, and never touched either of these young men in any inappropriate way, and we're confident that he'll be vindicated of these charges," Iacullo said.

Iacullo said DeFrias was at St. Mary's of the Assumption in Elizabeth, but is no longer active as a priest. He said he did not know what DeFrias did for a living.

The charges stem from an investigation that began in late 2002 when the mother of the boys told authorities she witnessed the priest touching one of her sons in an improper manner, the Union County Prosecutor's Office said.

Investigators allege that the priest touched or grabbed the private parts of both boys in 2001 and early 2002, until the mother complained to the church and DeFrias was removed, the office said. The boys did part-time clerical work.

St. Mary's is part of the Newark Archdiocese, which provided information and worked with prosecutors, archdiocesan spokesman James Goodness said.

"I think this is a clear demonstration that the archdiocese takes seriously every investigation," he said.

Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow said the office has completed a review of 21 other allegations against priests, and that no other charges have been brought, although one is still under review.

"Some of these cases dated back nearly 40 years, including one from 1955, and in almost every case the statute of limitations barred any chance for prosecution," Romankow said, in a statement.

Ten of the cases would not have led to charges because of a lack of credible information. Ten other cases could have resulted in criminal charges except for the statute of limitations or the victims' desire not to continue. In the remaining

 
 

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