Perv Priest May Face More Accusers
The Rev. John Banko, Convicted of Sex Assaults in 2002, Facing Additional Charges in Hunterdon

By Andrea Eilenberger
The Express-Times [Flemington PA]
January 27, 2007

Flemington | More alleged victims could testify against former Milford priest and convicted child molester the Rev. John Banko.

They most likely would not be the accusers who testified in the 2002 trial, when Banko was found guilty of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old altar boy, Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Solari said in court Friday.

Banko, 60, is facing new charges he allegedly sexually assaulted another boy younger than 13.

"It seems like it's headed towards a trial," defense attorney Peter Abatemarco said. "It's probably headed in that direction."

Abatemarco said he isn't yet aware of the allegations Solari might seek to introduce. He said he received the grand jury transcript in the case on Thursday and plans to review it with Banko via teleconference.

Banko is serving a 15-year sentence at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avanel, N.J.

He appeared before Hunterdon County Superior Court Judge Roger F. Mahon on Friday handcuffed and dressed in tan prison clothes.

If Solari seeks to present other victims' testimony, it could be heard during a court proceeding sometimes referred to as a "prior bad acts" hearing to determine if it is admissible in a trial. Banko's next court date is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on March 5.

It most likely "wouldn't be the same young men who testified" then, Solari said.

She might also seek to include testimony from an expert on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome, which can keep an abused child from reporting crimes in a convincing manner.

The expert wouldn't diagnose victims, but explain and provide testimony on the syndrome, she said.

During Banko's trial, three men other than the victim named in the case testified Banko bought them lavish dinners and gave them alcohol before attempting to molest them. Those alleged events happened between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. Banko was indicted in September on first-degree aggravated sexual assault, engaging in sexual conduct and child endangerment. The alleged abuse happened between Sept. 1, 1994, and May 15, 1995, when Banko was serving as pastor of St. Edward the Confessor Roman Catholic Church.

Reporter Andrea Eilenberger can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at


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