New York priest accused of repeatedly molesting minor in Fishtown pleads no contest to some charges, others dropped

Staten Island Advance [Staten Island NY]

June 9, 2023

By Jesse Bunch

The Rev. James Garisto will be sentenced this September.

A Staten Island priest pleaded no contest to corruption of a minor and indecent assault on Friday after prosecutors said he sexually abused an underaged boy in Fishtown during the mid-2000s.

The Rev. James Garisto, 74, faced several related charges after his arrest last year, but those charges were dropped, according to a spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

Garisto, who spent nearly 40 years as a priest, teacher, and school administrator in the Archdiocese of New York, has faced multiple allegations of abuse. Church officials placed him on leave in 2019 after receiving a report of sexual misconduct against him.

After a New York man sued Garisto in 2021 over abuse he said he suffered at the hands of the priest as a boy, a Philadelphia man in his 30s came forward to say that Garisto had abused him between 1995 and 2002.

The Philadelphia man told police Garisto sexually assaulted him beginning when he was 10 years old at the priest’s home in Fishtown. Criminal charges were filed in connection with those allegations, but they were later dropped because the statute of limitations on the alleged crimes had lapsed.

Garisto was again arrested last May, when another man said the priest touched him inappropriately at the Fishtown home between 2006 and 2010 when he was 15 years old. He said Garisto had also abused him at a property the priest owned in Harrisburg and at a church in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Efforts to reach Garisto and his lawyer were unsuccessful Friday.

Garisto is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 7.

A civil lawsuit filed by the victim in the criminal case is pending.

The Archdiocese of New York, which was also named as a defendant in the suit, recently reached a settlement in the case, according to AJ Thomson, the victim’s attorney. Thomson declined to disclose the amount of the settlement.

Garisto’s no-contest plea means that his conviction on the underlying crimes in the case cannot be used as evidence in the lawsuit, Thomson said. Still, he said the outcome of the criminal case was a step toward justice and accountability in Philadelphia, where criminal charges are rarely filed against priests accused of sex abuse.