Former Priest Charged on Six Sex-Abuse Counts
Robert Ponciroli, 66, Is Held in Lieu of $600,000 Bail on Felony Charges of Molesting Antioch and Oakland Boys

By Kristi Belcamino
Contra Costa Times
March 11, 2003

Martinez — A former Antioch priest whom police say molested altar boys in the 1970s and 1980s was charged with six felony counts of molestation on Monday.

Robert Ponciroli, 66, was extradited from Florida and arrived in County Jail in Martinez on Friday night. He is being held in lieu of $600,000 bail.

Ponciroli did not enter a plea. He will return to court with an attorney next week.

His arrest at his Florida house last week capped a yearlong investigation.

Last March, a 31-year-old man told Antioch police that Ponciroli had molested him from 1979 to 1981 while he was an altar boy at St. Ignatius Church, police said.

The man said Ponciroli abused him while he was doing yardwork for the priest on weekends, according to court records.

In May 2002, a 40-year-old former altar boy told Oakland police that the priest had molested him between 1973 and 1974 at Oakland's St. Frances de Sales Cathedral.

Antioch police said that during their investigation they talked to several other people who claimed to have had similar experiences with Ponciroli. However, none of their allegations met the criteria for filing formal charges against the priest.

Court records show that the church had concerns about Ponciroli's behavior with boys as early as 1975. He wasn't removed as a pastor until 1995, when a former altar boy at St. Cornelius Church in Richmond reported that he had been abused in the 1970s by the priest.

During a taped conversation, Ponciroli apologized to one victim, saying he was a sex addict, according to court documents.

The charges against Ponciroli could be affected by the outcome of a similar decades-old molestation allegation from Contra Costa County. That case will be argued this month before the U.S. Supreme Court, which will decide if allowing criminal charges years after the alleged offenses is constitutional.


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