The Record [Woodland Park NJ]
April 5, 2021
By Abbott Koloff
A newly filed lawsuit alleges that Kevin Gugliotta, a priest in the Newark Archdiocese, sexually abused a boy at a Union County parish in 2006, a few years after church officials decided he could not be punished for alleged abuse from decades earlier when he was a Boy Scout leader.
Newark Archdiocese officials have said they had no authority to punish Gugliotta after first hearing about allegations against him in 2003 because he was not yet a priest at the time of the alleged abuse, which had occurred in the 1980s.
After those 2003 allegations, Gugliotta worked another 13 years as a priest — and oversaw youth ministry at one parish, according to court documents — until archdiocesan officials removed him from ministry after his 2016 arrest on child pornography charges in Pennsylvania, where he now lives and is listed on the state’s sex offender registry.
Gugliotta, who had also served at times in several Bergen County parishes, has now been named in three lawsuits in New Jersey — including one related to the complaint brought to the church in 2003.
The priest is also accused of abusing two boys at St. Bartholomew of the Apostle parish in Scotch Plains after he was reinstated following a church investigation into the Boy Scout allegations. Gugliotta was in charge of youth ministry at St. Bartholomew, court documents say.
The newest lawsuit, filed Friday, alleges that Gugliotta abused a 9-year-old altar boy at St. Bartholomew in 2006.
Another man had accused Gugliotta in a 2019 lawsuit of sexually abusing him at the same church in the 2000s. In both cases, the alleged abuse occurred after the state lifted the criminal statute of limitations in 1996 for the most serious sex offenses, leading to the prospect of criminal charges.
“Let’s hope this brings about action by civil authorities to finally hold this man accountable as clearly church officials failed to do over many years,” said Mark Crawford, the head of the state chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP. “I hope they can pursue criminal charges.”
Slade McLaughlin, an attorney who filed Friday’s complaint, said neither he nor his client could talk about the case beyond the court pleadings. The lawsuit identifies the plaintiff as Brian Howard, who now lives in Blackwood. A source close to the case, who provided information on the condition that he not be identified, said Howard met with a Union County Prosecutor’s Office investigator in August of 2020 and gave a statement.
Greg Gianforcaro, the attorney who filed the 2019 lawsuit, said his client also talked to Union County law enforcement authorities. The client, who was in his late 20s and not identified in the court filing, died in October, Gianforcaro said. He declined to say how the man died.
The Union County Prosecutor’s Office has previously declined to discuss whether it is looking into filing criminal charges based on allegations made by Gianforcaro’s client, and did not respond to an email on Saturday asking whether it is looking into the latest allegations.
Gugliotta did not answer a call made on Saturday to a phone number that he supplied to the state in a court filing, and a message could not be left for him.
In 2003, a man told Newark Archdiocese officials that he had been a Boy Scout in Newark in the 1980s when he was sexually abused by Gugliotta. The man, Michael Mautone, of Westfield, was represented by Gianforcaro at the time.
Mautone went public with the allegations several years ago and filed a lawsuit last year against Gugliotta and the Northern New Jersey Council of the Boy Scouts. His suit and the two others naming Gugliotta are being heard under a state law that suspended the civil statute of limitations for sex abuse complaints, starting in December 2019.
Court documents say the archdiocese initially removed Gugliotta from ministry in 2003 as it investigated Mautone’s allegations but the Newark Archdiocese — led by Archbishop John Myers, who died last year — reinstated him in 2004.
The Newark Archdiocese did not immediately respond on Saturday to a request for comment and information on Gugliotta’s status. In 2019, the archdiocese said it moved to have him laicized sometime after his 2016 arrest on child pornography charges. Gugliotta, who was convicted in 2017 on those charges, reportedly told authorities he collected child pornography as a way to get revenge on God for his poker losses.
Newark Archdiocese priest directories show Gugliotta was ordained in 1996 and spent the next few years at St. Rose of Lima parish in Short Hills. He was assigned to Seton Hall University in 2002. He didn’t have an assignment in 2003, when the church would have been investigating Mautone’s claims. He is listed as being assigned to St. Joseph Church in West Orange in 2004 and to St. Bartholomew starting in 2006.
A Newark Archdiocese list of credibly accused clerics shows he had been assigned to several other parishes and schools within the archdiocese, including several in Bergen County, but does not specify the years of those assignments: Holy Spirit in Union, Immaculate Conception in Mahwah, Ramapo College in Mahwah and St. Elizabeth in Wyckoff.
Gianforcaro said he didn’t know Gugliotta had been returned to ministry in 2004 until after the priest’s arrest, 13 years after he and Mautone went to church officials.
“I was shocked that he’d been returned to ministry,” Gianforcaro said. “My biggest concern was that he might abuse other minors.”
Mautone said he was gratified that a third accuser came forward, believing that it will embolden others and potentially lead law enforcement to file criminal charges.
“I doubt it’s just the three of us,” Mautone said. “I hope they can pursue criminal charges. I would have liked to have seen John Myers held accountable.”
Abbott Koloff is an investigative reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get unlimited access to his watchdog work that safeguards our communities and democracy, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.