Ex-South Jersey Priest Charged with Sexual Abuse

By Sam Wood
Philadelphia Inquirer [New Jersey]
Downloaded April 16, 2003

A former Roman Catholic priest who served in eight South Jersey parishes between 1973 and 1995 was arrested yesterday in Florida and charged with sexually abusing a minor, authorities said.

James F. Hopkins, 60, was arrested in Stuart, Fla. Investigator Mike Molle of the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, Detective William Wheeler of the Pennsauken Police Department and representatives of the Martin County Sheriff's Department made the arrest, said Capt. Michael Kantner, a spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office.

Hopkins has been charged with aggravated assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, Kantner said.

A former altar boy last year accused Hopkins of sexual abuse. Hopkins' accuser, Jonathan Norton, said that from age 8 to 10, he was molested while an altar boy at St. Peter's parish in Merchantville. He said the priest - who had baptized some of his siblings - fondled and groped him, eventually forcing him to perform oral sex.

Norton sued the Diocese of Camden in 1999, and the case was settled out of court. Hopkins was removed from duty.

Camden County Prosecutor Vincent P. Sarubbi is expected to announce the arrest at a 1:30 p.m. press conference today, Kantner said.

Hopkins was arrested without incident at his home in Stuart shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, said Sgt. Jenell Atlas of the Martin County Sheriff's Office.

"New Jersey came down and we helped them," Atlas said.

Hopkins is being held without bail in the Martin County Jail where he is awaiting an extradition hearing, Atlas said.


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