Staten Island Advance [Staten Island NY]
June 10, 2023
By David Luces
Staten Island NY – A former Staten Island priest already accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a minor in New York pleaded no contest to several charges in Pennsylvania Friday in connection with abuse allegations more than a decade ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Rev. James Garisto, 74, pleaded no contest to charges of corruption of a minor and indecent assault after a man came forward accusing the priest of touching him inappropriately at a Fishtown, Pa., home between 2006 and 2010 when he was 15 years old, according to the report.
Other charges in the case were dropped, the report said.
Father Garisto, the former principal and academic dean of St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School, was arrested in the case on May 4, 2022, the Advance/SILive.com previously reported.
Father Garisto had also faced charges in connection with another incident involving a minor from 1995 to 2002 in Philadelphia. Those charges ultimately were withdrawn due to statute of limitations laws, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia County District Attorney’s Office previously told the Advance/SILive.com.
Father Garisto is scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 7, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer report.
According to a statement issued by the Archdiocese of New York at the time of his arrest, Father Garisto has been on leave, “unable to act as a priest or present himself as a priest,” since August 2019, when “the archdiocese received the first IRCP [Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program] complaint against him.”
UNRELATED STATEN ISLAND CASE
Father Garisto was a biology teacher at St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School in the late 1980s and 1990, also serving as a vice principal and academic dean at one time, according to a post on the school’s Facebook page.
In 2021, a former Staten Islander filed a lawsuit in Manhattan state Supreme Court against the Archdiocese of New York and St. Joseph’s under New York’s Child Victims Act. He claimed Father Garisto sexually abused him for several years, beginning when he was a teen in the 1990s.
Ryan Barry, now a husband and father who lives in Pennsylvania, stated in a lawsuit and in a 2021 interview with the Advance/SILive.com that he was preyed upon by Father Garisto, a former pastor, teacher and school administrator at St. Joseph’s.
“He robbed me of pretty much my whole childhood and my teenage years,” Barry said.
Although solidly in recovery today, Barry believes the alleged abuse triggered his long struggle with drug addiction.
“As soon as the drugs started, that’s all I did,” Barry said. “He [Father Garisto] robbed me of time with my family… It’s just frustrating that this guy got away with all of this and I’m just forgotten.”
Father Garisto was not criminally charged in the Staten Island case.
ABRUPT DEPARTURE FROM ST. ROCH’S
In 2015, Father Garisto made an abrupt departure from St. Roch’s R.C. Church in Port Richmond, prompting a rally by 100 impassioned parishioners, in support of the priest, on the steps of the church, Advance/SILive.com records show.
An archdiocese spokesman said at the time the decision to step aside “was made by Father Garisto himself, and not at the request of the archdiocese.”
“It was Father’s decision, and he put forth his reasons in his note to parishioners, and I don’t think we should go beyond that,” the spokesman said.
Father Garisto’s note — a terse letter that was hastily inserted into the weekend bulletin — said that he was “no longer able to continue as pastor” citing “emotional stress and physical strain” of trying to merge two parishes.
He said he had requested a sick leave from Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and that “hopefully, after a doctor-ordered rest, I will be able to return to active ministry,” and asked parishioners to “please remember me in your daily prayers, as I always will remember you.”