Indian Priest Charged with Molesting Child
December 23, 2005
An Indian priest working for the Diocese of Trenton in New Jersey has been charged with one count of endangering the welfare of a child by the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office in New Jersey.
The Rev James Selvaraj, 46, an adjunct priest of St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish in Hamilton, NJ, has been charged in connection with a September 28 incident occurring on the parish grounds. The complaint alleges that Selvaraj engaged in a conduct that impaired or debauched the morals of a child. "The charge is a third-degree offense that carries a possible prison sentence of three to five years," a spokesperson of the prosecutor's office told India Abroad.
Selvaraj appeared before Maria Sypek, Mercer County Superior Court who released him on his own recognizance. She forbade him to have any kind of contact with the victim, her family or any children under the age of 18. He cannot attempt to contact her via phone, e-mail, or even through a friend. 'I don't know how else to describe it other than these people don't exist (to you),' Judge Sypek told him in the court.
The judge also directed him to surrender his passport and remain in the state. Selvaraj belongs to the Diocese of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu. The Diocese of Trenton removed him from his duties before his court appearance. 'Father Selvaraj's faculties [duties] from the Diocese of Trenton continue to be revoked and he has been removed from his assignment,' a statement from Bishop John M Smith said. 'I am deeply saddened for all parties involved by the announcement from the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office regarding the Rev James Selvaraj,' the bishop said in a written statement.
When contacted, the diocese officials declined to speak any further.
Robin Scheiner, assistant prosecutor and head of the sexual assault and child abuse unit handling the case, would not discuss the alleged incident with the media. The case is to be presented to a grand jury on January 11. Selvaraj was allowed to keep his green card for identification purposes.
The charge was based on 'ugly motives' was the comment of the Selvaraj's attorney Marc Fliedner of Kamensky, Cohen and Associates of Trenton.
'This charge is, after all, based exclusively upon a bare bones allegation which will now be tested, for the first time, at the grand jury level. There is a wealth of critical information that we are prepared to share with the prosecutor's office regarding the credibility problems and ugly motives behind these allegations. Father James is anxious for this information at last to be heard and very grateful for the due process he will now be afforded,' he told the media.
That the court allowed Selvaraj to leave without a bail bond shows that we are 'one step closer to complete vindication,' Fliedner said. He also said that Selvaraj was deeply saddened that the bishop revoked his priestly duties. Reports said Selvaraj looked shaken during the hearing, and, upon taking his seat after filing his plea, the priest buried his head in his hands as two supporters comforted him. Selvaraj has been working for the Trenton diocese since 1998. He joined the Hamilton church a year ago.
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