Conviction upheld for priest who abused Honduran orphans

Conviction upheld for priest who abused Honduran orphans

Conviction upheld for priest who abused Honduran orphans

Father Joseph Maurizio is led into Federal Court for jury selection in Johnstown, Pa., Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015, by U.S. Marshals. (Credit: Todd Berkey/via Tribune-Democrat via AP.)

A priest convicted last year of sexually abusing two street children in Honduras had his conviction upheld on Tuesday. Prosecutors said Father Joseph Maurizio had established a charitable organization — Honduras Interfaith Ministries — to help pay for his trips.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania — The conviction of a Pennsylvania priest accused of sexually abusing orphans during missionary trips to Honduras has been upheld by a federal appeals court.

The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday also denied Joseph Maurizio’s request for a new trial. The suspended priest has maintained his innocence.

The 71-year-old Maurizio was convicted last year of sexually abusing two street children and using diocesan funds to facilitate abuse. He has been suspended from ministry.

He is alleged to have abused boys during trips to a Honduran orphanage between 2000 and 2009.

He was also convicted of possession of child pornography and illegally transferring money to a charity to help fund the trips.

Jurors acquitted him of another count of traveling outside the United States for sex with a minor — one of the alleged victims had recanted his accusation — and two other counts involving the transfer of funds.

Prosecutors said Maurizio had established a charitable organization — Honduras Interfaith Ministries — to help pay for his trips.

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He was sentenced to nearly 17 years in prison and ordered to pay $70,000 in fines and restitution. His lawyers say he has made the payment.

The charity which ran the orphanage, ProNiño USA, said “justice prevailed” when Maurizio was originally convicted, noting they have “taken actions to secure their property and thoroughly screen and supervise volunteers so that no similar action nor any improper behavior will ever occur in their facility again. We continue to educate, safeguard and counsel our boys.”

Staff at the orphanage reported the priest to authorities when they overheard orphans discussing the abuse.

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The Pennsylvania attorney general issued a report in 2016 saying two former bishops in the Altoona-Johnstown diocese covered up, or were slow to respond to, child-sex abuse by more than 50 priests over more than 40 years, with local law enforcement officials often deferring to church officials.

According to the report, a whistleblower accused Maurizio in 2009 and the diocese conducted its own investigation, including hiring a translator to review the victim’s claims.

“Documents obtained from the Diocese show a high-ranking Diocesan official concluding the alleged conduct was ‘impossible,'” the report said.

U.S. Bureau of Prison records show Maurizio is currently incarcerated at a low-security federal prison in Ohio with a projected release date of April 2029.

His attorney and the prosecution declined to comment on the latest ruling.

Wire agencies and Crux staff contributed to this report.

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