Former Priest Pleads Guilty to Sexual Assault

By Edward Lewis
Citizens Voice [Pennsylvania]
May 19, 2005

A former Roman Catholic priest admitted in Luzerne County Court on Wednesday to sexually assaulting a teenage boy while stationed at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Duryea.

Albert M. Liberatore Jr., 41, Scranton, was sentenced to five-years' probation by President Judge Michael Conahan after pleading guilty to three counts each of indecent assault and corruption of minors, and one count each of endangering the welfare of children and furnishing alcohol to minors.!Prosecutors emphasized that no deal was made with Liberatore's lawyers, Joseph Cosgrove and Larry Moran, on sentencing.

First Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Musto Carroll said that sentencing was at the discretion of Judge Conahan and that the criminal offenses did not meet the criteria of the state's Megan's Law.

"This was not a plea agreement; he pleaded guilty to all the offenses levied against him," Musto Carroll said.

District Attorney David W. Lupas said the victim, now 20 years old, was satisfied with Liberatore's guilty plea.

"He is very pleased," Lupas said. "He displayed a great deal of courage during this entire matter."

Lupas said the offenses against the victim began in 1999 when he was 14 years old and continued for more than three years. He said Liberatore would have been evaluated as a sexual offender under Megan's Law if the victim had been 13 years old when the sexual assaults began.

Musto Carroll said the victim was ready and willing to testify if Liberatore's case had gone to trial.

"It's a tremendous relief that he doesn't have to go to trial," Musto Carroll said. "But he was ready and willing to testify."

Lupas said the Diocese of Scranton has removed Liberatore as a priest. He commended the diocese for notifying authorities in Lackawanna and Luzerne counties on May 17, 2004.

County Det. Lt. Gary Sworen and Det. Larry Fabian conducted the investigation that resulted in Liberatore's arrest July 15.

Lupas said most of the offenses occurred in Luzerne County.

According to the criminal complaint, the victim told authorities he was an altar server at Sacred Heart of Jesus when he was 13 years old and met Liberatore when Liberatore became the new pastor of the parish.

When the victim completed the eighth grade in 1999, Liberatore invited the victim to the parish's rectory to watch movies. He also took the victim to fancy restaurants in Wilkes-Barre and Clarks Summit.

The victim told authorities that whenever he slept over the rectory, he slept in the same bed as Liberatore. The victim said that he slept in the rectory twice a week for three years and that Liberatore told the victim not to tell his mother or anyone about the sleeping arrangements, according to the criminal complaint.

Many times when the victim slept over, the victim told authorities Liberatore would take him to New York City where they patronized gay bars.

While in New York City around graduation in 2002, Liberatore told the victim that he was gay and told him about his past sexual relationships with other men.

The victim told authorities he stopped seeing Liberatore when he saw pornographic pictures of boys on a computer in the rectory.

At one point when the victim had a girlfriend in 2001 and 2002, Liberatore told the victim "... having a girlfriend was causing problems with their relationship," according to the criminal complaint.

Liberatore also told the victim, "It was OK for him to be gay and that (victim) should not try to fight it," according to the criminal complaint.

The Diocese of Scranton hired a private investigator who interviewed Liberatore on May 6.

Liberatore told the private investigator he gave the victim alcoholic beverages and admitted the victim had slept over the rectory.

But, Liberatore told the private investigator he never thought he touched the victim inappropriately at any time.

When confronted with the alleged allegations of events that occurred in New York City, Liberatore said, "All the things that (victim) said happened did happen and that it was nothing but simply sleep sex," according to the criminal complaint.

Liberatore was charged by the Manhattan district attorney's office with sodomy and two counts of sexual abuse. His case in New York City is still pending, Lupas said.