A Staten Island priest is charged with molesting a Philadelphia boy decades ago

Philadelphia Inquirer [Philadelphia PA]

January 28, 2022

By Mensah M. Dean

A Staten Island priest has been charged with molesting a Philadelphia boy from 1995 until 2002, beginning when the child was 10 years old.

The Rev. James Garisto, 73, who spent nearly 40 years as a priest, teacher, and school administrator in the Archdiocese of New York, was arrested Thursday and charged with endangering the welfare of children, corruption of minors, and indecent assault.

Garisto, who owned a home in Fishtown at the time of the assaults, is accused of attacking the child hundreds of times. He was released from police custody Thursday after posting 10% of his $75,000 bail.

The priest, who now lives in Harrisburg, is being represented by the Defender Association of Philadelphia, court records show. Efforts to reach him and his lawyer were unsuccessful Friday.

Garisto has been on leave from the New York Archdiocese since August 2019, when church officials received a report of sexual misconduct against him in an unrelated case, said Joseph Zwilling, archdiocese spokesperson, who declined to elaborate. While on leave, Garisto cannot function as a priest, present himself as a priest, celebrate sacraments, or wear clerical grab, Zwilling said.

The Philadelphia allegations mark the third time the priest has been accused of sexual misconduct. The alleged victim, now in his mid-30s, is married and works in the technology field, said his legal adviser, A.J. Thomson. Thomson said the man reached out to him and then contacted Philadelphia Police in December after learning that Garisto had been sued in 2021 by a Staten Island man who said the priest had sexually assaulted him for five years, beginning when he was 15 in 1993.

The accuser in the New York suit was a student at St. Joseph by theSea High School in Staten Island when the assaults began, according to the suit. Garisto was a biology teacher at the school in the late 1980s and 1990, and a vice principal and academic dean from 1996 to 1998, according to the school’s Facebook page. A spokesperson for the school said he no longer works there.

After leaving the school in his sophomore year, the man alleged that Garisto pursued him while he was living with his father in Pennsylvania, and that most of the assaults took place in Garisto’s car and at his Philadelphia home.

Thomson said the Philadelphia accuser came forward in part to support the man who filed suit in New York. Garisto assaulted the boy for years, violations he still grapples with decades later, Thomson said.