Ex-Catholic Diocese of Erie priest scheduled to plead

By Ed Palattella
October 16, 2018

The Rev. David L. Poulson, charged in May, is accused of molesting two boys between 2002 and 2010, including at his hunting camp in Jefferson County in the Erie diocese.

The Rev. David L. Poulson, a former priest in the Catholic Diocese of Erie, is scheduled to forgo a trial on child sexual abuse charges by entering a plea Wednesday morning at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Brookville.

The district court administrator for Jefferson County, Chad B. Weaver, said Poulson is scheduled for a plea hearing in a proceeding that starts at 9 a.m. on Wednesday before Jefferson County President Judge John H. Foradora, the only judge in the county.

Details of the plea were not immediately available. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office “will have more to say about this matter tomorrow,” spokesman Joe Grace said.

The lawyer listed for Poulson in court records, Christopher Mohney, of DuBois, was in court this morning and was not immediately available for comment, his office said.

Poulson, who is no longer in ministry in the Catholic Diocese of Erie, is accused of molesting two boys between 2002 and 2010, including at his hunting camp in Jefferson County, in the southeastern part of the 13-county diocese.

The Attorney General’s Office charged Poulson, 64, based on a presentment from the same statewide grand jury that issued a scathing report in August on child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro in May announced the charges against Poulson in Erie, while the grand jury was still hearing evidence on other cases included in its final report.

The report named Poulson as one of 41 “predator priests” in the Catholic Diocese of Erie accused of sexually abusing minors since the 1940s. Unlike the charges against Poulson, the allegations against most of the other priests are beyond the statute of limitations.

A handful of the named priests were charged previously, and a number of them have died.

The grand jury identified 301 “predator priests” that the panel said abused more than 1,000 minors in six Roman Catholic Dioceses since the 1940s. In addition to Erie, the dioceses are in Allentown, Harrisburg, Greensburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton.

The case against Poulson moved forward on May 31, when he waived all the charges against him to court at his preliminary hearing before a district judge in Brookville.

Poulson waived to court all eight counts against him, including two counts of indecent assault of a person younger than 13.

Jury selection in the case had been scheduled for Feb. 11, according to a Sept. 6 order from Foradora.

Poulson was initially jailed on $300,000 bond, but has been free after posting $30,000, or 10 percent of the full amount, on May 31. His bond was reduced to a percentage amount at his preliminary hearing, before District Judge Gregory M. Bazylak in Brookville.

Poulson was forced to resign as a priest in February in light of the criminal investigation, Erie Catholic Bishop Lawrence Persico has said. He also removed Poulson from active ministry.

Poulson at the time of his resignation was pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cambridge Springs. He was living in Oil City with his mother when he was arrested.

Under Persico’s direction, the Catholic Diocese of Erie started investigating claims against Poulson in January, and evidence the diocese provided to the Attorney General’s Office helped lead to the presentment against him.

Poulson was charged with indecent assault of a person younger than 13, with one count as a third-degree felony and the other as a first-degree misdemeanor; endangering the welfare of children as a third-degree felony; corruption of minors as a third-degree felony; indecent assault of a person younger than 16 as a second-degree misdemeanor; endangering the welfare of a child and corruption of minors, both first-degree misdemeanors; and indecent assault without consent as a second-degree misdemeanor.

The charges relate to incidents in Jefferson County and two other counties, Crawford and Clarion, all part of the Catholic Diocese of Erie. The Attorney General’s Office said the case was consolidated in Jefferson County, where Poulson’s cabin is located, and that Poulson would be prosecuted in Jefferson County for the charges related to all the incidents.

Poulson is accused of abusing the two boys in separate incidents at Poulson’s hunting cabin. Poulson is also charged with molesting one of the two victims at the rectories at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Cambridge Springs and St. Michael Church in Fryburg, Clarion County, where Poulson was assigned as a pastor before he was pastor at St. Anthony.

The first victim was abused between 2002 and 2010, when he was 8 to 16 years old, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

Poulson is also accused of molesting the second victim between 2003 and 2006, when the boy was 15 to 18 years old.


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