Middlesex Officials Admit Investigating Priest Abuse Claim
Prosecutor's Office Didn't Go Forward with Case against the Rev. John Casey Because of Statue of Limitations

By Chad Weihrauch
Courier News [New Brunswick NJ]
July 13, 2005

NEW BRUNSWICK -- The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office confirmed Tuesday it investigated a sexual abuse claim made against a North Plainfield priest but did not prosecute him because the statute of limitations had expired.

The Diocese of Metuchen announced over the weekend it has removed the Rev. John Casey, 47, as pastor of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in North Plainfield, while it looks into the allegations. The accusation involves a charge made by a minor from a time 18 years ago, when Casey was parochial vicar at St. Peter the Apostle parish in New Brunswick.

On Tuesday, Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Julia McClure declined to comment on specifics but said the diocese had approached the county prosecutor's office -- as a matter of church policy -- and police then investigated.

She would not comment on the age or sex of the alleged victim or on the exact nature of the reported crime. But she said that for more serious sexual abuse crimes -- aggravated sexual assault or sexual assault -- there is no statute of limitations, according to a 1996 state law.

For crimes committed before 1996 or for legally less-serious sex crimes -- aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal sexual contact and endangering the welfare of a child -- the age of the victim would come into play. Victims who are minors when they are assaulted generally can press charges up to their 23rd birthday.

Diocese spokeswoman Joanne Ward said Tuesday the charges against Casey were first brought to the attention of the church in December. The diocese took the allegations to police and began its own simultaneous investigation, she said.

"Our process is that we notify the civil authorities, and we begin our preliminary investigation," she said.

She noted that though no criminal charges have been filed, the church's internal probe continues and must be resolved by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Ward also declined to offer details of the alleged abuse.

"It's still under investigation. The case is not closed," she said.