N.J. priest sentenced to probation in abuse case | VailDaily.com

N.J. priest sentenced to probation in abuse case

FREEHOLD, N.J. – A Catholic priest accused of molesting a 9-year-old boy a decade ago after taking him to basketball games was sentenced to five years of probation Friday, angering some victims of sexual abuse including the cleric who replaced the defendant.The Rev. Joseph McHugh, who was removed from active ministry about 10 years ago, had pleaded guilty in October to a single count of endangering the welfare of a child.The victim, who is now 21, declined to speak in court, but said through his lawyer, Gregory Gianforcaro, that he was glad McHugh had to face justice. Gianforcaro and prosecutors said a more serious charge of sexual assault was dropped in a deal that spared the victim from having to testify.McHugh also was fined $1,000 and required to register with the state as a sex offender.McHugh declined to speak in court and did not answer questions outside the courtroom after the sentencing. His attorney did not speak about details of the case in court and also declined to comment after the hearing.Gianforcaro said the abuse occurred between 1994 and 1996 when McHugh was a priest at St. Thomas More. The boy was 9 when the abuse began, and most of it occurred in McHugh’s car as he drove the boy back and forth to basketball games, Gianforcaro said.The victim sued McHugh and the Diocese of Trenton, and received an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount, Gianforcaro said.The Rev. John Bambrick, who replaced McHugh at St. Thomas More parish in Manalapan, was among those who blasted the deal.”Joseph McHugh, though he made many good choices in his life, chose the worst kind of evil,” said Bambrick, who said he was molested by priests while studying to become one.Diocese spokesman Steven Emery said McHugh has been on leave since 1996, and has been removed from active ministry. He has not been formally removed from the priesthood and technically remains a diocesan employee, but he cannot publicly present himself as a priest or say Mass, Emery said.After the court hearing, Bambrick said that years before McHugh came to St. Thomas More, he had complained to church officials about what he considered to be the priest’s suspicious behavior with boys, including going on vacations with several of them.Emery said church officials had sent McHugh to counseling based on Bambrick’s concerns, but that the letter he sent them did not mention any specific instance of misconduct. He added that no potential victim had been identified at the time.Vail, Colorado

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