Erie Catholic Diocese Priest Charged with Sexual Abuse of Two Boys

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One of the victims was 8 years old while the second victim was 15 when the abuse started.

Erie News Now

Tuesday, May 8th 2018, 10:45 am EDT

Updated:Tuesday, May 8th 2018, 12:16 pm EDT

  An Erie Catholic Diocese priest faces criminal charges for the sexual abuse of two young boys over a period of several years. The Attorney General’s Office said the diocese knew about the priest’s “sexual predator tendencies” since at least 2010 but did nothing to report it to police.

Father David Poulson, 64, of Oil City, was arrested Tuesday morning. He has been charged with indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors following a statewide grand jury investigation. Three of the counts are felonies.

He was a priest in the Erie diocese for four decades until his resignation in February 2018.

One of the victims was 8 years old while the second victim was 15 when the abuse started. It happened while Poulson was employed in active ministry as a priest for the Erie Catholic Diocese, according to investigators.

“Poulson assaulted one of his victims repeatedly in church rectories,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement.

Poulson sexually assaulted one victim repeatedly in church rectories at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Fryburg and Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Cambridge Springs, according to the grand jury presentment. The abuse usually happened Sundays after the victim served as an altar boy at mass and happened more than 20 times, investigators said. Poulson required the victim to confess to the sexual assaults during confession in church while Poulson served as the priest receiving the boy’s confession.

The same victim, as well as the second, were also assaulted at a remote hunting cabin that he owned with a friend in Jefferson County, according to the Attorney General’s Office. The cabin was 10 minutes off the main road in a remote location and did not have electricity, heat or running water, investigators said. He reportedly brought the boys to the cabin, watched horror movies with them and then assaulted them.

The Diocese of Erie knew about Poulson’s “sexual predator tendencies” since at least May 2010 but did nothing to report him to authorities until September 2016 in response to a grand jury subpoena, the Attorney General’s Office said.

The diocese produced a secret memo May 24, 2010 in which diocesan leaders confirmed complaints about Poulson’s inappropriate contact with minors, Shapiro said. The memo was reportedly hidden in church archives for six years. In it, he admitted to being “aroused” by a boy and sharing sexually suggestive text with numerous other boys, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

The abuse came to light after a military chaplain at Fort Hood, Texas, called the Erie diocese and said the victim, who is now 23 years old, disclosed he was sexually abused by Poulson when he was a child.

Poulson admitted in an interview with Diocese officials that he owned the hunting cabin and took an estimated 20 trips there, half of which were with young boys, according to investigators. He admitted he was attracted to young men and provided the names of the boys he took to the cabin, the Attorney General’s Office said. The diocese turned over the names of the victims to investigators.

The grand jury heard from nine other men who had contact with Poulson when they were minors. According to the grand jury, their stories were similar:

“Poulson was a ‘cool’ young priest who befriended them, flirted with them, ‘wrestled’ with them, and ‘joked’ about his sexual preference for young boys. Poulson plied the boys with gifts, cash, dinners and alcohol. In at least one of these cases, prosecutors believed evidence of a sexual assault existed, but it was barred on statute of limitations grounds.”

Attorney Shapiro is calling for the criminal statute of limitations for sex crimes under Pennsylvania law to be abolished.

“In this case, our investigators uncovered evidence of other sexual assaults – but the statute of limitations prohibited us from filing those charges,” said Shapiro. “This victim – all victims – are entitled to justice.”

Poulson served as Pastor of four different parish churches, including St. Agnes in Morrisdale, St. Michael’s in Fryburg, St. Anthony of Padua in Cambridge Springs, and St. Bernadette, also in Cambridge Springs, during his tenure with the Diocese of Erie.

Anyone with information of sexual abuse by Poulson or any priest is asked to call the Office of the Attorney General’s Clergy Abuse Hotline at 1-888-538-8541.

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In April, the Erie Catholic Diocese released a list of all priests and laypersons credibly accused of sexual abuse during a news conference April 6.

The list includes 34 priest, 20 of whom are deceased, and 17 laypersons, two of whom are dead. It has the names of people who have been credibly accused of actions ranging from furnishing pornography to minors to direct, sexual assault of minors. The Diocese said it believes these actions disqualify them from working with children and youth.

The Diocese said the first goal of releasing the list is to protect children and make the public aware for its own well-being because it is not possible to monitor everyone listed.

WATCH THE NEWS CONFERENCE

 

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