Wyckoff Priest Indicted on Sex Assault Charges
Accused of Molesting Boy, 13

By Charles Austin
The Record [Bergen County NJ]
November 30, 2001

A Roman Catholic priest has been indicted and charged with second-degree sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and criminal sexual contact.

The Rev. Michael Fugee, formerly assigned to St. Elizabeth R.C. Church in Wyckoff, has entered a not-guilty plea to all the charges.

The indictments came after a seven-month investigation that began when Fugee was arrested March 21. The priest was arraigned this week before Superior Court Judge William C. Meehan, said Bergen County Assistant Prosecutor Maria Rockfol. The prosecutor said the state would file a motion in December petitioning the court to require the Archdiocese of Newark to turn over records related to the case. Fugee is on administrative leave and has had no pastoral duties since March, said James Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

Goodness said he did not know where the priest -- free on $10,000 bail -- was living. The archdiocese issued a statement through Goodness saying: "We are naturally saddened by the news of an indictment of Father Fugee, and pray that the matter will be resolved soon. We have cooperated with the appropriate authorities concerning this situation, and will continue to do so. We regret that this process has already taken so much time and caused anxiety and hurt to many people in the community. " The statement also said: "Under the laws of our country, Father Fugee continues to be deemed innocent during this ordeal. It is our hope that matters will conclude quickly for everyone's benefit, and that healing can begin soon. We continue to pray for the young man connected with the situation, and will provide any and all appropriate pastoral assistance to him and his family now and in the future. " The allegations apparently involve one youth and occurred in a Wyckoff residence in 1999 when the boy was 13.

In March, the archdiocese appointed a "response team" to investigate the charges and meet with Wyckoff parishioners. However, the names of those on the team and their reports are kept confidential, in accordance with archdiocesan procedures. The church may have to release these reports to the prosecutors as part of the pre-trial discovery process.

Rockfol said the inquiry into the allegations was continuing and that the case could take a year or more to come to trial.

Fugee had been at the Wyckoff church for three years. A graduate of Seton Hall University, he was ordained in 1994 and was formerly appointed to St. Rose of Lima R.C. Church in Millburn.


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