Abuse trial could take 3 weeks

By Phil Ray
Altoona Mirror
August 12, 2015

The trial for a Somerset County priest charged with sexual offenses against Honduran children will take about three weeks, according to estimates in a memo issued by U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson in Johnstown.

Gibson held a status conference on the case against the Rev. Joseph Maurizio Jr. of Central City on Friday with Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie L. Haines and Maurizio's Altoona attorney, Steven P. Passarello. The trial is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Sept. 8.

The prosecution said it will present its case beginning Sept. 9 and expects to finish by Sept. 21, although it could conclude as early as Sept. 16 or 17.

The defense told the judge it would take a week to present its case.

Both sides would then be given time to present rebuttal testimony.

The jury should be able to begin its deliberations by Sept. 29, the judge stated.

A criminal complaint was issued by the government against Maurizio last Sept. 25.

A grand jury then issued an indictment, but that set of charges was superseded by an eight-count indictment approved on April 7.

Maurizio is charged with engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor in foreign places, possession of material depicting sexual exploitation of a minor and additional counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places.

He has also been charged with three counts of transporting, transmitting or transferring money in and out of United States to carry out unlawful activity.

Maurizio, as pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish in Central City, would make annual trips to an orphanage in Honduras.

He ran a charity and allegedly used the funds to make improvements to the orphanage.

Several years ago, the FBI received complaints about Maurizio's possible sexual abuse of children in Honduras.

The investigation eventually was taken over by the U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.

The defense has long maintained that accusations against the 70-year-old priest stemmed from disagreements with other agencies involved with the care of children at the orphanage.

Details about pretrial activity have been conducted under seal.

The judge last week issued strict rules as to how sensitive information about the alleged victims is to be treated.

The defense will be permitted to review documents that contain "protected information," but the defense attorneys and investigators cannot allow Maurizio to copy protected information.

He can have copies of documents but not videos of the interviews with the alleged victims.

The defense must store the information in a secure place, not disclose it to others and either destroy or return the protected information to the government when the case is completed.

The government will provide interpreters for the prosecution witnesses, and arrangements could be made to have interpreters available for the defense.

The judge indicated that up to 16 jurors may be selected for the panel that hears the case.



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