March 17, 2020
By Tom Jackman
After a former Catholic priest from Northern Virginia was accused of sexual abuse that occurred in the 1980s, and his arrest was announced Monday, D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) revealed that he was the victim. Grosso said the opening of an investigation into his childhood trauma played heavily into his decision not to seek another term on the city council.
The alleged abuser, Scott Asalone, 63, is the former rector of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville, Va., and more recently a management consultant and bookstore owner in Asbury Park, N.J. He was a member of the Capuchin Friars order who was removed from public ministry in 1993 and dismissed from the Friars in 2007, according to records released last year by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. The diocese included Asalone’s name in a list of all clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse in Northern Virginia.
Asalone was the first person indicted as a result of an investigation by the Virginia Attorney General’s Office and Virginia State Police into Catholic clergy abuse, after the Pennsylvania attorney general in 2018 uncovered hundreds of unprosecuted cases and more than 1,000 child victims. A multi-jurisdictional grand jury met in Fairfax County last week, Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s office said Monday, and issued an indictment Thursday charging Asalone with one felony count of carnal knowledge of a minor between 13 and 15 years old. The victim is identified in the indictment as “D.G.,” which said that the abuse occurred between April and September of 1985, when Grosso was 14 and Asalone was 29.
Asalone was taken into custody Saturday in New Jersey, Herring’s office said, and is awaiting extradition to Virginia. After Herring’s office made the announcement Monday, Grosso issued a statement about the arrest of a former clergyman for criminal sexual abuse of a minor. “The minor he assaulted was me,” Grosso said.
“This occurred during a very difficult time of my life,” Grosso said in the statement. “Though the deep scars remain, I largely believed this incident was behind me, especially after I underwent intensive therapy in the 1990s.”
Grosso said investigators in Virginia had recently obtained the Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s internal file on his case, contacted him several times in the past year and asked him to testify before the grand jury in Fairfax. “I did so,” Grosso said, “only to prevent Mr. Asalone from ever hurting another child.”
Grosso apparently reported the incident to the Catholic church in the 1990s and received a financial settlement at the time. In 2015, when Grosso was pushing for legislation to expand the statute of limitations in Washington for civil claims in sexual abuse cases, he told WAMU that “I had a situation happen to me when I was a teenager, so it’s personal for me.”
Grosso said that because he reported the abuse “in my early 20s and told my family about it, the reality was that there was nothing we could do because the statute of limitations in Virginia was so low that I couldn’t go after them in a court.”
Grosso told WAMU that he received a settlement and that the priest was removed from the church but faced no legal consequences. Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations for filing civil actions in personal injury cases. The state has no statute of limitations on felony crimes.
In 2018, Grosso helped pass the Statute of Limitations Amendment Act, which took effect in May 2019 and opened a two-year window for victims in the District to file civil claims even if they had been time-barred under the former three-year statute of limitations.
Grosso said in his statement that the investigation into “a crime the Diocese attempted to bury for decades” had “caused fresh trauma as I have been forced vividly to relive the tragic events of my childhood. I have again received therapy and made difficult decisions to advance my recovery. My conclusion not to seek another term as a council member was heavily influenced by this new case.”
In a brief interview on Monday, Grosso said it was important to “get the message out that people should speak up and that there is a chance for justice to happen.”
Grosso said: “It’s important, I think, when you have a platform like I do, to use it for the better of the community and to encourage people that it’s okay to speak the truth and to talk about what happened to you in an open way as best you can so that you can find some justice.”
Grosso said he decided to go public “because I understand the tremendous burden the victims of sexual assault and abuse carry throughout their lives. As I did many years ago, we all must find the courage to come forward, tell our stories, and seek justice and accountability from the perpetrator, as well as the church and other institutions that have hidden or excused their behavior.”
Grosso has been on the city council since 2013. He is a lawyer who earned his degree from Georgetown University. He announced in November that he would not seek a third term on the council.
Asalone was ordained as a Capuchin Friar in 1983, according to church records. The Arlington diocese said Monday that he served in Northern Virginia from June 1984 to January 1993. His only assignment during that time was at St. Francis de Sales. In January 1993, he was removed from St. Francis de Sales Parish by the Capuchin order, a diocese spokeswoman said. The Arlington diocese said it later learned that the Capuchins had received an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Asalone when he was a clergyman. The Capuchin order did not return a request for comment.
Catholic friars typically are sent to places where there are few Catholic priests or churches, such as rural areas or inner cities. Initially, Purcellville was sparsely populated, but it and St. Francis grew rapidly in the 1990s. Asalone was the pastor when the congregation built a new church in 1992, and a story in The Washington Post in 1997 said that Asalone was “on a sabbatical working as a Wall Street stockbroker.”
Asalone went on to work for Merrill Lynch and formed his own consulting firm in New Jersey in 1999, according to biographies he has posted over the years. He has spoken at many public gatherings about the need for positive psychology in the workplace. It was not clear whether he has retained a lawyer. The case will be tried in Loudoun County.
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