NEW ORLEANS — A former Catholic Church deacon in New Orleans was indicted Thursday on a charge that he raped an altar boy nearly 40 years ago.

George Brignac, 84, was charged by a grand jury Thursday with one count of aggravated rape. He was arrested in September.

The victim in the case came forward as an adult. He told The Associated Press in September that he hoped Brignac’s arrest will “send a message to other pedophiles in the Church that this should never happen again.”

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro noted in Thursday’s news release that Louisiana has no time limit for prosecuting such offenses involving a victim younger than 12.

“Now that victims have come forward in adulthood, with allegations deemed credible by police investigators, prosecutors and the grand jury, we will move forward aggressively to pursue justice on their behalf,” Cannizzaro said. “This is the first such case in New Orleans to produce an indictment so many years after the offenses were inflicted upon helpless children. There may be more to come.”

Brignac has not entered a plea to the new charge. In a brief July interview with the AP, he denied having improperly touched children.

Brignac was defrocked as a deacon in 1988 after a child accused him of fondling him. That allegation came on top of previous claims that he had abused other boys, including one that led to his acquittal in 1978 on three counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile.

In the current case, prosecutors say the victim, then age 7, was an altar boy under Brignac’s supervision in 1978 when the abuse began and that the abuse continued until the boy was 12.

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