Judge Oks Testimony of Former Honduran Orphan in Priest Abuse Case
By Liz Zemba
September 4, 2015
A federal judge will allow a former Honduran orphan to testify that a Somerset County priest attempted to photograph him in the nude when he was a boy, even though no criminal charges were filed in connection with those allegations.
The witness, identified as John Doe, is expected to testify that the Rev. Joseph D. Maurizio tried to photograph him naked in a bathtub, and that he saw Maurizio sexually abuse three minors.
But prosecutors on Friday revealed that Doe, during an interview Thursday with a federal investigator, accused Maurizio of touching him inappropriately.
“While the government was aware that he may have witnessed the sexual abuse of Minors 1, 2, and 3, the government has now learned that this individual was also a victim,” prosecutors Amy Larson and Stephanie Haines said in the filing. “He stated that while he was a minor and residing at the nonprofit organization, the defendant touched his penis over his pants.”
Doe will be permitted to testify when Maurizio's trial starts Tuesday, following an order issued late Friday in which Judge Kim R. Gibson granted a prosecution request to present evidence of “uncharged conduct.”
In a federal indictment, Maurizio is accused of traveling to Central and South America to have sex with orphaned boys under the guise of performing charity work through his self-run nonprofit, Humanitarian Interfaith Ministries.
Federal officials said Maurizio promised the boys cash and candy to watch them shower, have sex or fondle them.
One of his attorneys, Stephen Passarello of Altoona, has repeatedly said Maurizio is innocent of the allegations. A second defense attorney joined the case on Friday, Daniel J. Kiss of Altoona.
Three orphaned boys were previously identified in the indictment. It alleges two of the boys, identified as Minor 1 and Minor 2, were sexually assaulted between Feb. 26 and March 13, 2009. The third boy, Minor 3, was assaulted sometime between March 5, 2004, and March 11, 2007, and between March 3 and 14, 2008, according to the indictment.
Maurizio is charged with four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places at various times between 2004 and 2009; one count of possession of child pornography; and three counts of transporting, transmitting or transferring funds into or out of the United States with the intent to promote carrying on an unlawful activity.
In addition to the sex-abuse allegations, the indictment alleges Maurizio sent checks totaling $8,000 to another charity, ProNino USA, to facilitate the trips.
Other evidence of “uncharged conduct” that will be permitted by Gibson's order centers on cash.
Prosecutors allege Maurizio was known as a “money man” to the victims because he cashed checks for his personal use in Honduras and claimed reimbursement for expenses when he returned to Pennsylvania.
Maurizio, former pastor of Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Central City, near Indian Lake Resort, has been held in the Cambria County jail on a federal detainer since he was arrested Sept. 25.
The trial is expected to last at least three weeks.
Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.