Ex-Priest Awaits Verdict in Sex Case

By Rocco Laduca
March 30, 2006

UTICA- An Oneida County Court jury could decide today if a defrocked priest is guilty of approaching two 15-year-old boys to pose for sexual photographs in Rome.

The jury began deliberating late Wednesday afternoon following two days of trial testimony in which one boy described posing for pictures that James Tamburrino took, while the other recalled the encounters that led police to Tamburrino.

In their closing arguments Wednesday, attorneys for both sides left the jury with two different pictures of Tamburrino's actions involving the two boys in July.

Tamburrino, 38, of Pilmore Drive, is charged with using a child in a sexual performance, attempting to use a child in a sexual performance, possessing a sexual performance by a child and two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Tamburrino also was previously defrocked from the Carmelite religious order in 2001 after sex-related allegations were made against him in the Bronx.

Tamburrino's defense attorney, Pal Lengyel-Leahu of California, argued that Tamburrino believed one of the boys was older than 17 when he took naked photographs of the 15-year-old in a Rome motel. Then when Tamburrino arranged to meet a second boy the next day, Lengyel-Leahu said he only did so after police made the teen call Tamburrino.

"The defense of entrapment, that's what this case is about," Lengyel-Leahu said about a recorded phone conversation, in which one of the boys was asking Tamburrino if he'd want to engage in sexual activity.

Police are prohibited from "pulling someone into the criminal process" who would otherwise not be predisposed to engage in such illegal activity, he said.

But Assistant District Attorney, Dawn Catera Lupi said Tamburrino knew what he was doing.

Lupi emphasized that Tamburrino had already taken erotic photographs of one boy when he approached another boy twice on the street. Tamburrino gave that boy his phone number before police even became involved, Lupi said.

"How can someone not be predisposed to commit a crime that he's already committed?" Lupi said.

Lupi concluded, "This defendant trolled the streets of Rome looking for children to take pictures of and perhaps have sex with. Tell this defendant that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Find him guilty."

Both alleged victims testified in front of Judge Michael L. Dwyer, and Lengyel-Leahu asked the jury whether they would "trust teenagers with the truth of this case."

"It's hard to keep your story straight when you're making things up, when you have to fill in the blanks," Lengyel-Leahu said about the boys' testimony. He pointed out that one boy claimed Tamburrino took pictures of him in his clothes, yet police never found those pictures.

Lupi, however, said Tamburrino was only interested in keeping naked pictures of the boy, so perhaps the boy only thought Tamburrino was taking other pictures.


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