Former Warden Says He Was Not Told of Allegation

Associated Press State & Local Wire
August 31, 2002

The former warden of the Petersburg Federal Correctional Center says he would not have allowed the Rev. John P. Blankenship to work there had he known the priest had been accused of sexually abusing a child.

The Catholic Diocese of Richmond notified the prison system about the allegation, said the Rev. Pasquale Apuzzo, diocesan spokesman.

If that is true, the information was not passed on to the Petersburg facility, prison spokesman Joe Ludgade said. There is nothing in Blankenship's file about alleged sexual abuse, he added.

"If I had been advised of the allegation, I would have immediately removed Father Blankenship from the prison and started the process for termination of his employment with the Federal Bureau of Prisons," said J.J. Clark, who was warden of the Petersburg facility from 1986 until 1989 and lives in retirement in Chillicothe, Ohio.

U.S. Department of Justice guidelines do not allow sex abusers to work in the prison, Clark said.

Z. Stephen Grzegorek of Media, Pa., director of the Northeast region of the Federal Bureau of Prisons from 1979 until 1988, also did not know about the allegation. "I would have been obligated to report it to the FBI," he said.

Bishop Walter F. Sullivan forced Blankenship to retire from priestly duties on Aug. 9. Blankenship had been chaplain at the Petersburg prison for 19 years.

In 1982, when he was pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Prince George County, Blankenship allegedly sexually abused a 14-year-old male parishioner. Sullivan learned of the alleged abuse in 1988.

Blankenship admitted the alleged abuse, apologized to the alleged victim and paid for his college education and counseling, Apuzzo said.

Last month, the alleged victim, now 34, reported the alleged abuse to Prince George authorities. On Aug. 20, Blankenship was indicted on four counts of sodomy involving a juvenile. The 65-year-old Richmond priest surrendered to Prince George authorities Thursday. He was released on bond pending a Sept. 17 court appearance.

Clark and Grzegorek said they learned of the allegation from news.


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