Priest Settles Inmate Sex Suit

The Daily Item
March 20, 2009

JOHNSTOWN -- A settlement between a New York man convicted of a 2001 rape in Northumberland County and a Franciscan priest was reached Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

The inmate, William Victor, now at the State Correctional Institution-Fayette, filed a lawsuit in November 2007 against the Rev. Gerard M. Connolly, 67, of Altoona, seeking damages in excess of $3 million. Victor said in the lawsuit that the two had sexual contact at State Correctional Institution-Cresson.

The terms of the settlement were sealed immediately, said federal Magistrate Keith Pesto. However, it was indicated the agreed-upon amount was far less than what Victor had sought.

Victor has two rape convictions, including one in Northumberland County. Victor is serving a sentence of at least 41 years for a crime in Monroe County, and a 15-to-30 year sentence for raping a Turbot Township woman during a 2001 burglary at her home.

In that case, Victor talked his way into the home, then made the woman tie up two other family members before raping her. A child was locked in a bathroom during the attack.

A month later, Victor attacked a couple staying in a honeymoon suite at a Poconos resort. After that assault, the husband freed himself and chased Victor away. Victor was caught because he crashed his car into a tree while fleeing.

Connolly served at more than a half dozen churches in the Johnson area during a number of years.

He was working at the prison as a counselor in 2006, when Victor said the sexual encounters occurred.

The priest, through a contract his order had with the state Department of Corrections, was chaplain at the prison from March 2006 until March 2007.

He was charged by state police with smuggling alcohol to the prisoner and having sexual contact with him during counseling sessions.

Connolly was placed on Cambria County's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for first-time offenders in May and was placed on 23 months probation. He will be able to clear his criminal record if he successfully completes the probation.

Victor also was charged because he extorted money from the priest to keep silent.

Victor pleaded guilty in February 2008 and was sentenced to two years on probation to be served after his prison term.

Tony DeGol, a spokesman for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, said, even though the sexual contact occurred within the diocese's jurisdiction, Connolly was not a diocesan employee.

"The diocese had no role in any settlement," DeGol said.


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