Plum priest acquitted in 1998 sex abuse charges

Tribune-Review [Pittsburgh PA]

November 14, 2022

By Laura Reed Ward

A Plum priest accused of sexually abusing an 8-year-old boy in 1998 was found not guilty of all the charges against him on Monday.

A jury deliberated for less than four hours before reaching its verdict in the case against the Rev. Robert Cedolia, 71.

Cedolia was found not guilty of aggravated indecent assault of a person less than 13 years old, indecent assault of a person less than 13 and corruption of minors.

His trial, before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jill E. Rangos, began Nov. 7.

“It’s good to see justice done,” defense attorney Christopher Capozzi said. “In fact, the man is innocent. They rejected (the accuser’s) assertions.”

That man, who was 31 when Cedolia was charged in 2021, told county detectives the abuse occurred during practice before his first Holy Communion in spring 1998 at Our Lady of Joy in Plum.

The accuser said, in one incident, he was taken to the Sacristy room, where he was touched inappropriately. He said a second incident occurred two weeks later in the church bathroom — also during Communion practice.

However, Capozzi said he was able to prove to the jury there was only one Communion practice that year, and there is video from that event that showed interaction between the accuser and Cedolia.

“All of his facts were off,” Capozzi said.

He said the accuser was financially motivated in filing his complaint.

The accuser only came forward after he learned there could be money available to people who were victimized in the church, Capozzi said. The man sought out a plaintiff’s attorney in Texas before he contacted police and only went to law enforcement after his claim was rejected by the church.

“He did it for purposes of leverage — period. End of story,” Capozzi said. “It just didn’t happen.”

According to a statement issued by Bishop David Zubik from the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Cedolia was in active ministry for 41 years and has maintained his innocence since the accusations were made nearly four years ago.

The verdict, the statement said, is consistent with the finding of the diocesan Independent Review Board, “which found no merit in the claim.”

Cedolia was placed on paid administrative leave in August 2019 when the allegations were made against him. He was forced to move off of diocesan property, his attorney said.

Cedolia hopes to get back to working as a priest, Capozzi said.

“The fact this man had to go through the stress and difficulty of a trial…. thank heavens justice was done in this case.”

The Survivors Network, or SNAP, which provides support to victims of sexual assault, issued a statement Monday encouraging those who have been victimized to go to law enforcement and seek counseling.

“It is shocking that jurors found Cedolia not guilty of these crimes despite the great work of the prosecutors,” the release said. “We applaud and stand firmly in the belief of the victim in this case who bravely shared his truth while taking the stand.”

Paula Reed Ward is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paula by email at or via Twitter .