Newark Archdiocese Pays to Close Sex Abuse Case

By Jeff Diamant
Star-Ledger [Newark NJ]
May 3, 2006

The Newark Archdiocese has reached a settlement with a man who accused a Catholic priest of sexually abusing him two decades ago, his attorney said yesterday.

The agreement was reached last month, said Greg Gianforcaro, attorney for Joe Capozzi, who now lives in Manhattan.

Capozzi, who contacted The Star-Ledger about the settlement yesterday, said the diocese agreed to pay $50,000. He had told the archdiocese that Monsignor Peter Cheplic molested him in the 1980s, when Capozzi was a teenager and Cheplic worked at St. Joseph of the Palisades in West New York.

Capozzi, 37, said his family first met Cheplic in 1977 when the priest worked at St. Matthew Parish in Ridgefield.

Capozzi said the amount he will receive -- about $35,000 after legal fees -- will help tide him over while he searches for a new job. He recently had to leave his position as a finance officer at Columbia University because publicity over his accusations made it difficult for him to continue working there, he said.

"It (the settlement) is not changing my life," Capozzi said. "I'm out of work right now, and it will help me figure out what I'm going to do."

Gianforcaro said, "I hope that this provides him some small sense of closure with regard to the litigation aspect of it. Unfortunately, the emotional damages will probably live on."

James Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese, acknowledged that the archdiocese has reached a settlement with Capozzi but declined to confirm the amount.

From 1972 until 2005, Cheplic worked at St. Aloysius in Jersey City, St. Matthew in Ridgefield, St. Henry's in Bayonne, St. Lawrence in Weehawken, St. Joseph of the Palisades in West New York, and Holy Spirit/Our Lady Help of Christians in East Orange.

Earlier this year, after an archdiocese review board decided to hold a church trial against him over sex-abuse allegations, Cheplic decided to retire and no longer serve as a priest. Capozzi is one of three men who last fall accused Cheplic of abuse.

Cheplic could not be reached for comment but has maintained his innocence, according to the archdiocese.

Jeff Diamant covers religion. You may reach him at or (973) 392-1547.


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