Somerset County Priest Sentenced for Sexual Abuse on Plane

By Joe Ryan
The Star-Ledger
January 27, 2009

A Roman Catholic priest from Poland was sentenced today to one year in federal prison for groping a 16-year-old girl in the dimmed cabin of a trans-Atlantic jet bound for Newark.

The Rev. Tomasz Adam Zielinski, 33, had admitted to reaching under a blanket during the 2008 flight to grab the thigh and groin of the girl, who was traveling alone from Belarus for medical care in Pennsylvania.

"It is a very serious crime," said U.S. District Judge Jose Linares . "The fact that he is a priest makes his actions all the more reprehensible."

Zielinski, who was in the United States on a religious visa, wore a suit jacket and open collar as he told Linares that he deeply regretted fondling the girl.

"I pray for her," he said.

Zielinski was removed from his position at Christ the King Church in Manville soon after he was charged in July. He had been an associate pastor at the parish since April.

When Zielinski pleaded guilty, his lawyer said the priest would volunteer to be deported.


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