Prosecutor Received 2 Complaints on Priest Cleric Accused in Abuse of Child
By A. Scott Ferguson
Asbury Park Press
January 8, 2004
TOMS RIVER - The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office has received two complaints against a Bay Head priest - accused last week of sexually abusing a child about 35 years ago in Ireland - but no charges will be filed in either, authorities said yesterday.
The most recent allegation was sent to the prosecutor's office Friday, a few days after the Rev. Patrick Francis Magee, 63, was charged by Irish authorities with "an act of gross indecency on or toward a child" between Jan. 1, 1965, and Dec. 31, 1969.
Magee, pastor of Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Bay Head, also worked at St. Martha's Roman Catholic Church in Point Pleasant for nearly 20 years.
The two complaints were forwarded to the prosecutor from the Diocese of Trenton, and stem from the time Magee served as a priest at St. Martha's, Supervising Assistant Prosecutor Robert A. Gasser said.
Meanwhile, a special advisory board to Bishop John M. Smith will review the charges from Ireland and the more recent of the two Point Pleasant charges at a special meeting next week, Steven Emery, a diocese spokesman, said yesterday.
The Diocesan Review Board was established to advise the bishop in these type of cases and is comprised of church experts and laypeople.
"They are going to be looking at the newest one from here and the charges from Ireland," Emery said. "They are going to look at the charges and the overall situation."
The bishop has also authorized his legal advisor to contact Irish authorities about the allegations there, Emery said.
Emry said the diocese would not comment on the specifics of the two recent complaints.
The two complaints that were sent to the prosecutor's office for review involved what Gasser called "inappropriate touching." The two unidentified men involved were adults at the time of the incidents.
The first complaint was sent to prosecutors in April 2002, contending the incident happened in 1991 when the man was 19. The complainant contended Magee inappropriately touched him when the two were hugging, Gasser said.
In that case, prosecutors found the allegation would only warrant a disorderly person offense if true, and, by time the authorities had found out about the incident, the statute of limitation on such an offense had run out, Gasser said.
"The case at best might have been a disorderly persons offense, but it was not criminal," Gasser said.
The second allegation contends there was a similar hugging incident between Magee and another man, then 18, between 1983 and 1984, Gasser said.
Prosecutors received two letters, again sent by the diocese, from the second man and his psychologist Friday. However, the man, now in his last 30s, said he wants to remain anonymous and does not want to press charges against Magee, Gasser said.
The two cases were reviewed by the prosecutor's office sex crimes units as well as by Prosecutor Thomas F. Kelaher.
Magee, who was visiting relatives in Ireland, remains free in bail there. He had to surrender his passport and must report to the local police station twice a week. It's not clear who made the allegation there and when it was made.
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