Admitted Molester Confronts Accusers
Fliers Warn Drivers of Defrocked Priest

By Julia M. Scott
The Star-Ledger [Paterson NJ]
January 30, 2006

Families living on a street in Paterson said they were surprised to learn yesterday that their new neighbor was the man at the center of the state's most notorious case of clergy sex abuse.

The former Rev. James Hanley, who had been living in the two- story house a month, was featured on yellow fliers containing his photo and a warning: "Child sex abuser alert!"

Hanley, who admitted in 2003 to molesting 16 boys as part of a lawsuit that led to a $5 million settlement paid by the Paterson diocese -- the largest by a state diocese -- suddenly drove up as leaflets were being passed out. He jumped out of his car and told the crowd he lied about molesting as many boys as he did, according to media reports.

"If that's what it takes," said Hanley, 70, in a televised newscast. "I was under oath but in order to get it off my back and to get the money you wanted, I said, 'Yes.'"

Hanley is accused of committing the acts between 1968 and 1982 while working as a priest at three Catholic churches in Morris County. He admitted to masturbating and showering with boys, engaging in oral sex, and sexual touching in a sworn statement.

Hanley is not a registered sex offender because he was never criminally charged before the statute of limitations expired. He was formally removed from the priesthood in 2003.

As television cameras rolled, Hanley blamed his acts on illnesses.

"I'm an alcoholic. I'm manic depressive. I'm a psychotic and a psychotic does strange things sometimes," he said.

After a series of tense exchanges, Hanley drove off with one of the yellow fliers tucked under his windshield wiper. Paterson police said they were not summoned to the confrontation and calls to the Paterson diocese were not returned.

Mark Serrano, one of Hanley's victims, organized the flier distribution when he learned Hanley had moved out of a Paterson housing complex for senior citizens, called the Maurice J. Brick Complex. Neighbors said last month Hanley moved into a second-floor apartment on McBride Avenue, an area filled with families, schools and parks.

"When we learned he had moved we realized he lives in a new community that doesn't know who he is," said Serrano.

Serrano and others had gathered at Hayden Heights Memorial Plaza a few doors down from Hanley's rental yesterday morning with hundreds of fliers that announced: "A notorious, admitted, serial child molester has recently moved to your neighborhood."

Paul Steidler, who said he was another Hanley victim, dismissed the defrocked priest's claim that his illnesses pushed him to molest boys.

"The guy is unrepentant," said Steidler. "He talks about the problems he has, but he doesn't accept what he has done."

Steidler and others spread into the working-class neighborhood, knocking on doors with fliers in hand. A few walked into the street to hand fliers to passing motorists.

"Be careful," Patrick Kelly warned drivers as he offered a flier. Kelly, 41, said he was one of Hanley's victims. "There is an admitted child molester who lives in the neighborhood."

A few houses down, Jamie Yacolca was disturbed to learn Hanley lives across the street from him.

"We are very concerned because we have five children," said Yacolca, 42. He has already told his children to be wary of their new neighbor.

"If the man approaches, right away call us or run away," he said.

Julia M. Scott can be reached at or (908) 302-1505.


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