Catholic Priest Surrenders on Molesting Charge

By Linda Stein
The Times [New Jersey]
December 2, 2005

A Roman Catholic priest accused of molesting an 11-year-old girl turned himself in yesterday and, after a brief appearance before a Superior Court judge, was released on his own recognizance.

The Rev. James Selvaraj, 46, the adjunct priest of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish in Hamilton, is charged with one count of endangering the welfare of a child for an alleged incident Sept. 28 on the church grounds, said Assistant Prosecutor Robin Scheiner, head of the sexual assault and child abuse unit.

Scheiner told Judge Maria Sypek that she had discussed the case with Selvaraj's defense lawyer, Mark Fliedner, and they agreed that Selvaraj would not be required to post bail but must submit to a series of conditions.

Selvaraj must have no contact with the victim or her family; no contact with any children under the age of 18, either supervised or unsupervised; must turn in his passport and remain in the United States and in New Jersey unless a judge allows him to travel.

"I have discussed these conditions with my client and he is prepared to adhere to them," Fliedner said. He also waived a reading of the charge and entered a not-guilty plea on Selvaraj's behalf."

Outside the courtroom Fliedner called the charge "one step closer to (Selvaraj's) complete vindication."

"This charge is after all based exclusively upon a bare-bones allegation which will now be tested for the first time at the grand jury level. There is a wealth of critical information which we are prepared to share with the prosecutor's office regarding the credibility problems and ugly motivations behind these allegations. . . . Father James is anxious for this information at last to be heard and very grateful for the due process he will now be afforded."

Sypek sternly repeated the conditions of bail to Selvaraj and warned him that if he didn't follow them "bail will no longer be available."

Selvaraj has been at the church for just over a year and in the Trenton diocese since 1998, said Steven Emory, a spokesman for the Most Rev. John M. Smith, bishop of Trenton.

"I am deeply saddened for all parties involved by today's announcement from the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office regarding the Rev. James Selvaraj, a priest of the Diocese of Tuticorin, India, working for the Diocese of Trenton," Smith said in a written statement. "Father Selvaraj's faculties from the Diocese of Trenton continue to be revoked and he has been removed from his assignment."

He was involved in all aspects of the church and school at the 4,800-family parish, except administration, before he was asked to leave the rectory.

Scheiner declined to discuss the specifics of the allegation but the prosecutor's office said in a press release Selvaraj allegedly "engaged in conduct which impaired or debauched the morals" of the girl.

If convicted, Selvaraj could be sentenced to three to five years in prison.

Scheiner has invited Selvaraj to testify when the case goes before a grand jury. Fliedner was uncertain yesterday whether his client will take that offer to testify.


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