Middlesex Priest Admits Sex Crimes in Wisconsin

By Jeff Diamant
Star-Ledger [New Jersey]
September 16, 2004

A Roman Catholic priest -- who worked in South Amboy and Old Bridge Parlin for the Diocese of Metuchen from 2001 through last spring -- pleaded guilty yesterday in Milwaukee to two counts of first-degree sexual assault on a child.

The Rev. Simon Palathingal, 62, admitted in court to charges that he sexually abused a 9-year-old boy in 1990 and 1991 while living in Milwaukee.

"He said it was true ... that he did do the things alleged," said Gale Shelton, the Milwaukee assistant district attorney prosecuting the case.

Palathingal, who said little else in court, faces up to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 9. As part of the plea negotiations, Shelton recommended to the judge that he receive a 20-year sentence.

"To see him plead guilty today is a relief," said Nick Janovsky, 23, the victim in the case, who expressed concern that Palathingal may have abused others over the years. "It's great for me. He should have done this in 1993 when it was originally reported."

He is in the Milwaukee County jail, without bail options. His lawyer, Edward Hunt of Milwaukee, did not return a call requesting comment.

A spokeswoman for the Metuchen diocese -- which suspended Palathingal from ministry when he was arrested in June -- said the diocese would have no comment on the case until he is sentenced.

Palathingal, of India, is a member of the religious order of the Salesians of Don Bosco -- one of the largest Catholic orders in the world -- and was studying at Marquette University, a Jesuit institution in Milwaukee, at the time of the alleged incident.

He arrived in Metuchen 2 1/2 years ago after working with the diocese in Lake Charles, La. He came to New Jersey after a priest from the Metuchen diocese suggested he help during the Christmas season.

That winter, he asked to become permanent in Metuchen, starting a process of diocese background checks. While waiting for approval, he assisted in the day-to-day operations at St. Mary's in South Amboy and St. Bernadette in the Parlin section of Old Bridge.

The Diocese of Metuchen has not received any complaints about Palathingal during his time in New Jersey, spokeswoman Joanne Ward said. Bishop Paul Bootkoski has asked anyone with knowledge of any criminal activity involving Palathingal to contact the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.

Yesterday, Janovsky said his family first reported the allegation in 1993, but no charges were filed. He renewed his allegation this year in an interview with Milwaukee detectives.

Palathingal was arrested June 3 at St. Mary's rectory by South Amboy and Milwaukee police


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