Broward Priest Quits after Being Accused of Sexual Advances

By Lisa Arthur
Miami Herald
September 2, 1999

A second allegation of sexual impropriety against a popular priest at Saint Maurice Catholic Church on Stirling Road led to his resignation over the weekend, said a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami.

The Rev. Joseph Cinesi said in a letter to parishioners that he wanted to be able to devote his energies to fighting the allegations.

One of those claims was made last month by a man in his mid-30s who said the priest propositioned and stalked him in 1998 while Cinesi was assigned to Saint Jerome Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale.

"My client lived near the church, but was not a member of the church. He's not even Catholic," said Russell Adler, attorney for both accusers. Their names are being withheld by police and the courts under a state law that shields the identity of alleged victims of sexual abuse.

"Father Cinesi sent my client nude Polaroids, including a masturbation shot," Adler said.

A second man in his 30s recently came forward claiming that Cinesi hugged him and touched him inappropriately 15 years ago while Cinesi was assigned to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Hialeah, Adler said.

Adler has filed a petition in civil court on behalf of the first accuser asking a judge to order Cinesi to stay away from the man.

Parishioners at Saint Maurice, 2851 Stirling Rd. in unincorporated Broward near Hollywood, have rallied around Cinesi, who has been at the parish for 11 months. Supporters delivered a petition with 400 signatures to the Archdiocese this week.

"We don't think he should be gone," said Jim Ward of North Miami Beach. "We want to be with him to support him."

Ward, a former police officer, said he has been involved in many criminal investigations and, to his ear, the first accuser's story doesn't ring true.

"Someone supposedly comes to your house 100 times and you don't go to the police? Instead you hire an attorney and a private investigator," Ward said.

He said he doesn't think Cinesi, who has been a priest for more than 20 years, is guilty of any impropriety.

"And even if any of it were true, obviously he would need some help," Ward said. "I don't believe as Christians the families of this parish could kick our pastor to the curb."

Cinesi could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Kenneth Rubin, did not return calls from The Herald.

The first accuser filed a report in early August, said detective Michael Reed, Fort Lauderdale Police spokesman.

The report is not public information while the investigation is open, Reed said.

"We haven't heard from the second accuser the attorney is talking about," Reed said. "The first complaint is being investigated as a misdemeanor stalking complaint. We'll turn it over to the state attorney when we finish with it."

The Archdiocese accepted Cinesi's resignation with sadness and stands behind him, said Mary Ross Agosta, director of communications.

"He has the full support of the Archbishop and the Archdiocese," Agosta said.

Cinesi is still considered an active member of the priesthood even though he resigned from Saint Maurice church. He is still drawing a paycheck and the Archdiocese is helping pay his legal fees, Agosta said.

He no longer lives in the Saint Maurice rectory. Agosta said she did not know where he is staying.

Some parishioners said they thought the Archdiocese forced Cinesi to resign after the second accuser surfaced.

"That's absolutely not true," said Agosta. "We stand completely behind him."

Mary Elena Pinto of Fort Lauderdale hopes the ordeal ends soon.

"Father Cinesi is a wonderful man and I know he is not capable of doing these things," she said. "We think he belongs here with the people who love him. If you hurt our pastor, you hurt our whole family here."

Pinto said she thinks 90 percent of parishioners at Saint Maurice feel the way she does.

Adler said he was surprised that parishioners would express blind faith in Cinesi and show little regard for his clients.

"I have actual photos here," Adler said. "There is no doubt that this man in these pictures is Cinesi."


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