Priest Pleads Not Guilty to Assault

By Jonathan D. Rockoff
Providence Journal-Bulletin
April 25, 2002

The Rev. Daniel M. Azzarone Jr., a well-liked assistant pastor at St. Mary Church in Cranston, pleaded not guilty in Superior Court yesterday to charges that he sexually assaulted two teenage boys.

Father Azzarone, 51, who is living at an undisclosed location while suspended from the church, was released on $7,500 cash bail. The bail was posted by the Rev. Alfred C. Lonardo, pastor of St. Mary Church.

Tanned and wearing his priestly collar, Father Azzarone strode confidently to the front of the court to resolutely declare his innocence as his parents, a few supporters and Father Lonardo looked on from the gallery.

"Not guilty on all counts," Father Azzarone said, after being read the seven counts of first- and second-degree sexual assault.

Superior Court Judge Edwin J. Gale ordered Father Azzarone to stay away from the two boys he had allegedly assaulted. Father Azzarone cannot leave the state, except to go to Connecticut and Massachusetts during the daytime.

After posting bail, Father Azzarone left the courthouse in a sport-utility vehicle with his parents, supporters and Father Lonardo. Neither Father Azzarone nor his backers would comment.

"We're going to address it in court," said Robert B. Mann, his lawyer. "We're not going to get into a public discussion of the case."

The Cranston police arrested Father Azzarone last November on charges he sexually assaulted one boy. Roman Catholic Bishop Robert E. Mulvee suspended him, put him on administrative leave and barred him from serving as a priest.

According to papers that the Cranston police filed in District Court, Father Azzarone first sexually assaulted the boy when the boy was 15 years old, and they were sharing a room on a Caribbean cruise in November 2000.

On one night during the parish cruise, the police alleged in their court filings, Father Azzarone rented a pornographic pay-per-view movie, and the two watched the movie before Father Azzarone assaulted the boy.

Father Azzarone, the police said, sexually assaulted the boy 30 to 40 times until November 2001. The police said most of the assaults took place in one of Father Azzarone's bedrooms at the St. Mary Rectory.

The police said the two would watch pornographic movies, drink alcohol and smoke marijuana together. The boy told Father Azzarone many times that he didn't want to have sex, but the priest wouldn't stop, the police said.

The boy was "afraid to stop due to Azzarone telling him that he had connections with the Mafia and that he could have anyone killed," the police said.

Details about the second allegation of sexual assault, which surfaced following Father Azzarone's indictment earlier this month, are few. According to the indictment, the assaults took place in August and September 2001.


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