On Friday, August 1, 2014, a Lackawanna County judge dismissed sex abuse charges against a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton. As with many cases involving allegations of sexual abuse, the end of the criminal proceeding does not terminate the impact of the allegations on the accused individual's personal life.
The allegations in this case were made in April 2014 by a young woman who accused the priest of inappropriately touching her in 1998. The woman claimed that the priest offered her alcohol after a midnight mass and then touched her feet and legs as he drove her home. The priest has consistently denied the charges.
The case was dismissed because the statute of limitation had expired before the action was commenced. The district attorney agreed that the limitation period had expired and barred the prosecution, but he defended his decision to bring the case as "the right thing to do." The prosecutor also said that he did not intend to appeal the ruling. The defendant's attorney pointed out that the dismissal was not a win for the priest because his reputation is ruined. "You can't un-ring the bell," the attorney said.
In some ways, the dismissal is harmful to the priest. His accuser's story will not be subject to cross-examination, and he cannot hope for a formal acquittal of the charges. Moreover, the damage to the priest's professional and personal life cannot be measured. He has been defended by many former parishioners, but he is still on a leave of absence from his pastoral duties.
Those who are accused of sex crimes should know all of their legal rights. This can be achieved by speaking with an experienced Pennsylvania attorney, who can discuss issues ranging from the statute of limitation to defense strategies. By acquiring an aggressive defense, an accused individual may stand a chance at beating the charges and getting his or her life back on track with as little damage as possible.
Source: www.pahomepage.com, "Criminal Charges Dismissed Against Father Philip Altavilla," Aug. 1, 2014