Former Catholic Diocese priest indicted for sexual assault
Fourth indictment stemming from comprehensive review of clergy child sexual abuse allegations
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha and Colonel Darnell S. Weaver announced that the Statewide Grand Jury has returned an indictment charging a former priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence with sexually assaulting a juvenile male victim between 1981 and 1982, stemming from an ongoing investigation by the Office of the Attorney General and the Rhode Island State Police into clergy child sexual abuse in Rhode Island.
The defendant is scheduled to be arraigned on June 8, 2022, in Providence County Superior Court.
As alleged in the indictment, the charge against the defendant stems from an assault that took place in the town of Burrillville between January 1, 1981, and December 31, 1982. The defendant was ordained as a priest on November 21, 1981. At the time of the alleged assault, the defendant was appointed to serve as a Deacon in Our Lady of Victory Parish, in Hopkinton, and as a Chaplain at Rhode Island Hospital.
In August 2009, the defendant was removed from ministry by the Diocese of Providence, but he has not been laicized, or dismissed from the clerical state, by the Catholic Church.
“Our broad investigation of clergy child sexual abuse in Rhode Island has had, from its inception, two principal purposes: to prepare a comprehensive report of our findings regarding such abuse and the Diocese’ response to it, and along the way bringing individual criminal cases as they are developed, where the facts as alleged warrant them,” said Attorney General Neronha. “This is the fourth case this Office has brought against a clergy member based on child sexual abuse allegations. Our investigation remains active and ongoing. I am grateful to the Rhode Island State Police for their partnership throughout the investigation.”
“We’re proud of the work that our Troopers do every day, but helping to bring justice to those who were abused when they were young is especially gratifying for our detectives,” said Darnell S. Weaver, Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department of Public Safety. “As always, we appreciate our partners at the Attorney General’s office for their collaboration in bringing these challenging cases forward.”
In November 2021, a statewide Grand Jury returned an indictment charging former priest James Silva with multiple counts of child molestation. The case against Silva is being prosecuted in Providence County Superior Court.
On May 5, 2021, a Statewide Grand Jury returned an indictment charging former Smithfield Priest Edward Kelley with multiple counts of sexual assault. In February 2022, the defendant was found by the Court to be incompetent to stand trial.
In November 2020, a Statewide Grand Jury returned an indictment charging former Woonsocket priest John Petrocelli with multiple counts of child molestation. The case against Petrocelli is being prosecuted in Providence County Superior Court.
Ongoing review of Diocese records
The Attorney General’s Office has been conducting a review of allegations of clergy child sexual abuse and the Diocese of Providence’s handling of such allegations. In connection with that review, the Office has gained access to over 70 years of Diocese records. Where the Office’s review develops evidence of alleged criminal misconduct, the Office and the Rhode Island State Police are committed to conducting a thorough investigation of such alleged misconduct and bringing criminal charges where appropriate.
The review remains ongoing.
Assistant Attorney General Timothy G. Healy and Special Assistant Attorneys General Jonathan E. Burke and Sean P. Malloy of the Office of the Attorney General and Detective Sergeant Heather Palumbo and Detectives Kyle Draper and Jared Andrews of the Rhode Island State Police are leading the investigation and prosecution of the case.
An indictment, information, or complaint is merely an allegation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.