Priest Still Faces Charge of Sex Abuse
Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, NJ)
August 7, 2004
A judge on Friday refused to dismiss an indictment charging a former Catholic priest with sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy in 1995 while the priest was assigned to a parish in Oaklyn.
James F. Hopkins, 61, who now lives in Stuart, Fla., was arrested on sexual assault and child endangerment charges in March 2003. He has been free on bail since shortly after he was returned to Camden County.
Hopkins' attorney, Robert Rosenberg, had asked Superior Court Presiding Criminal Judge Linda Baxter to dismiss the indictment, arguing in a legal brief that the state statute of limitations had run out and that the indictment was based on an illegal telephone wiretap.
Baxter denied both requests. She said New Jersey law permits child endangerment charges to be filed up to five years after an alleged victim turns 18, or within two years of the victim's discovery of the event. She added that sexual assault charges on a child have no filing deadline.
In addition, Baxter said, two recorded telephone conversations between the alleged victim, now 19, and Hopkins were authorized by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office as part of an investigation and were recorded with the approval and participation of the alleged victim.
Rosenberg said he is obtaining a psychological evaluation of Hopkins. Once that is completed and turned over to the prosecutor's office, the state has the option of obtaining its own evaluation.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant Camden County Prosecutor Donna Spinosi.
The assaults reportedly took place in the victim's home in Pennsauken and in the parking lot of a convenience store, according to the complaint against Hopkins. At the time, Hopkins was assigned to St. Aloysius Church in Oaklyn, but had served in three other Camden County parishes.
Hopkins is scheduled to return to court on Sept. 10 for a pretrial hearing before Superior Court Presiding Criminal Judge Linda Baxter. At that hearing, the state will put on the record any recommended plea agreement.
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