The Rev. Simon Palathingal Justice Delayed
Runaway Priests Hiding in Plain Sight
Dallas Morning News
December 5, 2004
The Rev. Simon Palathingal
LAW ENFORCEMENT CASE STUDY #2
Prosecutors in Milwaukee did not file charges against Father Palathingal after a young boy made abuse allegations in 1994. The priest, who had gone home to India before the complaint was made, later returned to ministry in other parts of the United States and was accused of further abuse.
Longtime Milwaukee District Attorney E. Michael McCann, facing criticism from the accuser, filed sexual assault charges in June against Father Palathingal. The priest, 62, admitted having sex with the child but told police the boy "was the aggressor 100 percent." Father Palathingal pleaded guilty and was sentenced last month to 16 years in prison. In court, he apologized to the victim and said he wants to keep working as a priest. Until recently, Father Palathingal also faced a charge of indecency with a young parishioner in Lake Charles, La., stemming from a May 2004 incident. Prosecutors, said they dismissed that case because the accuser didn't want to proceed.
Father Palathingal abused 9-year -old Nick Janovsky in 1990 and 1991, when the priest was studying at a Catholic university in Milwaukee and assisting at a parish. Mr. Janovsky said his uncle, the Rev. Dennis Pecore, found him in bed with Father Palathingal at a home for priests and confronted the abuser, who soon returned to India. At the time, Father Pecore was on probation for sexual abuse himself; he was convicted a second time in 1994, for molesting his nephew. At that time, Mr. Janovsky told authorities about Father Palathingal. Prosecutors did not explain their refusal to file charges, according to the victim's parents. They and their son accuse Mr. McCann, who has described himself as a devout Catholic, of going easy on abusive clergymen.
JUSTICE OFFICIALS SAY
They reject the family's allegations. "We absolutely told [Mr. Janovsky's] parents that we felt we didn't have enough evidence," said Gate Shelton, the district attorney's top sex-abuse prosecutor. She said she believed the victim from the beginning but didn't think he would be a strong witness as a child and didn't have a way to interrogate father Palathingal in India. Ms. Shelton said she doubted that the FBI would have helped with that; it has done so in similar cases elsewhere. The prosecutor has previously been quoted as saying that prosecution wouldn't have been in Mr. Janovsky's best Interest in 1994 because some relatives had 'vilified" him during the Pecore case.
CHURCH OFFICIALS SAY
Father Palathingal is a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco religious order, whose U.S. attorney declined to comment. A Salesian official in India said no one told him about the abuse allegations until Father Palathingal's arrest this year. The Salesians recommended the priest for his most recent parish assignment, in Metuchen, NJ., the bishop there said. High-ranking Salesian leaders have helped other accused priests hide abroad, a Dallas Morning News investigation recently showed. The order's leaders have disputed the findings but have declined to be specific.
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