A priest who was convicted of sexually assaulting poor street children during missionary trips to Honduras and said federal prosecutors wrongly withheld evidence in his case won’t get a new trial, a judge ruled. The priest, 70-year-old Joseph Maurizio, was convicted in the sexual tourism case in September. U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson rejected his appeal, clearing the way for him to be sentenced on March 2, barring further appeals. The Johnstown judge found that an accuser’s statement was wrongly withheld but wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the priest’s trial. “Given the substantial evidence that exists in this case … the court finds it unlikely that a jury at a second trial would acquit defendant,” he wrote in the ruling, issued Monday.

The appeal, which prompted a hearing before the judge last week, concerned a statement given by one of the accusers who told investigators he wasn’t “abused” by the priest. The boy told a federal investigator that some others “think badly of me” because of his contact with Maurizio, before adding, “Perhaps they think he really abused me, but that was not the case.” But the judge agreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Larson, who argued the boy’s use of the word “abuse” referred to one act and not to other abuse the priest was accused of committing. The judge agreed with the prosecutor that the boy later clarified his statement to investigators, confirming the priest fondled him, which Larson said was consistent with his trial testimony.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown suspended Maurizio after federal prosecutors filed charges in September 2014. Prosecutors contend Maurizio used a self-run Johnstown-based charity to travel to an orphanage for several years ending in 2009. They said Maurizio promised candy and cash to three boys to watch them shower, perform sex acts or fondle them. Maurizio last served at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Central City, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. He maintains his innocence and has been looking to hire a public relations firm to tell his story.

Source : Malta Independent