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  Accused Priest Now at Drexel D.A. Cited James Iannarella in Report

By Dana DiFilippo
Philadelphia Daily News
October 6, 2005

A priest accused of sexually abusing a Delaware County teenager now works amid thousands of teenagers and young adults as a Drexel University administrator.

James M. Iannarella was one of 63 priests whom Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham named last month in a blistering report accusing the clerics of sexual perversions against children, and church authorities of a cover-up.

Iannarella, 36, works as an assistant vice president in Drexel's Office of Government and Community Relations. Although still a priest, he is not active in any ministry.

Abraham's report accuses Iannarella of molesting a 17-year-old female student from May to August 1999 at St. Joseph's parish school in Aston, Delaware County, where he was a parochial vicar.

Niki Gianakaris, a Drexel spokeswoman, said Iannarella has worked at Drexel since November 2001.

"Mr. Iannarella's primary responsibilities focus on external initiatives and activities," Gianakaris said in a written statement. "The University is unaware of any charges ever having been filed against him, per our policy of background checks of all prospective employees."

Prosecutors never filed charges against Iannarella - or any but one of the priests listed in the report - not because of a lack of evidence but because the statute of limitations had expired in most of the alleged crimes, Abraham has said.

Such statutes vary depending on the crime and age of the victim. For some sex crimes, prosecution must commence within two to five years of the crime, while the clock starts ticking for others from the victim's 18th birthday. Another amendment requires child-sex-abuse cases to be initiated by the victim's 30th birthday.

It was unclear yesterday what statutes Abraham's office applied to Iannarella's case. Prosecutor Charlie Gallagher said he couldn't immediately comment on what had prevented his office from prosecuting Iannarella.

Iannarella did not return telephone calls from the Daily News.

But his current post - given the recent allegations against him - left some uncomfortable.

"Is a major university a good place for a sex offender to work?" one observer angrily demanded.

Bud Bretschneider, chairman of the Catholic watchdog group Voice of the Faithful, agreed. "I wonder if Drexel knows what his history is. Certainly Drexel should be informed that he in fact left the priesthood as a result of sexual molestation [allegations]. I would be concerned that he would be molesting young women at Drexel."

Archdiocese spokesman Matthew Gambino declined to comment, saying: "We're just not commenting on specific cases."

Iannarella underwent a church-ordered psychological evaluation in September 1999 at St. John Vianney Hospital after the abuse allegations came to light, according to the report. He was to undergo outpatient treatment at the hospital after that evaluation was completed, but it was unclear from the report whether he had.

He was placed on administrative leave in 1999 and left active ministry in September 2003, according to the report.

Contact: difilid@phillynews.com

 
 

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