Manville Priest Charged with Fondling Teen on Airplane

By Jeff Whelan
The Star-Ledger
July 11, 2008

A Manville priest was charged with assault today after he allegedly fondled a 16-year-old girl on an airplane flight from Poland, authorities said.

Tomasz Adam Zielinski, 31, was removed from his position at Christ King Church in Manville as a result of the federal charges, church officials said.

Zielinski, a citizen of Poland, served as an associate pastor at the parish since April and is staying in the United States on a religious visa.

The alleged incident occurred aboard a July 5 flight from Poland on which Zielinski was returning from a vacation. He allegedly groped the girl and attempted to unzip her pants, according to a criminal complaint filed today in federal court in Newark.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Claire Cecchi released Zielinski on a $10,000 bond and ordered him to surrender his passport, attend mental health counseling and avoid contact with minors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Judson Welle said the priest could face up to six months in prison, a $5,000 fine and deportation to Poland.

Rev. Paul Gregory Bootkoski, bishop of the Metuchen diocese, removed Zielinski from his position upon learning of the charges, according to a diocese spokeswoman.


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