Cops: Predatory priest from Jersey City moved, struck again

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Nj.com              Jersey City News

Friday, April 30, 2010

By MICHAELANGELO CONTE and AGUSTIN TORRES

JOURNAL STAFF WRITERS

A priest convicted of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old boy while serving at Jersey City’s St. Aloysius Church in the 1980s has now been arrested on charges he also assaulted three Missouri men in the 1980s, officials said.

Rev. Gerald Howard, formerly known as the Rev. Carmine Sita, was arrested Wednesday at his Bloomfield home on charges emanating from the Cooper County Prosecutor’s Office in Missouri.

“Now more than ever we must remain vigilant, for the last time this priest abused in New Jersey and was convicted, he only received five years probation and was ordered to undergo counseling,” said Mark Crawford, director of the New Jersey Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “How was it just months later he changed his name and was returned to the ministry in a Missouri parish?”

Howard is indicted on three counts of forcible sodomy, three counts of attempted forcible sodomy and two counts of kidnapping, said Cooper County Prosecutor Doug Abele. He faces up to life in prison if convicted on the sodomy charges.

In the Jersey City case, Sita was convicted of sexually assaulting the 17-year-old and of drug dealing while serving at St. Aloysius Parish from 1976 to 1982.

In January 1983, he was sentenced in New Jersey to five years probation and ordered to undergo treatment. By August of 1983, Howard joined Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Boonville, Mo., after a short stay at a New Mexico treatment center.

Prosecutors in Missouri did not name the three alleged victims in the new charges, but in August former Boonville resident Dr. Mark McAllister claimed Howard sexually assaulted him repeatedly during the 1980s while he was an attendee of the Boonville parish.

He said Howard would take him on trips, including trips to New Jersey. McAllister won a $600,000 settlement in connection with those claims in the fall.

“He was clearly molesting again at his earliest opportunity,” David Clohessy, the national director of SNAP, said of the Missouri charges. “It is extremely callous, reckless and deceitful on the part of the churches that kept (Sita’s guilty plea) silent.”

Last year Archdiocese of Newark spokesman Jim Goodness said the church had begun the process of defrocking Howard and yesterday he said it could take years.

Howard is not performing any ministerial duties, said Goodness, adding that he had only just become aware of the new charges against Howard.

Howard had to be charged with laws that were on the books at the time of the alleged crimes from 1983 to 1988, Abele said last night, adding there are no statutes of limitation on the offenses with which Howard is charged.

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