Ex-Milford priest convicted again of sex assault

by Ralph Ortega/The Star-Ledger

Tuesday May 13, 2008, 12:26 PM

For the second time, a former Milford priest has been convicted of abusing a child.

John M. Banko

A jury deliberated less than three hours before finding John M. Banko guilty today of sexually abusing a young boy between September 1994 and January 1995.

Banko, 62, is already serving 15 years on a 2006 conviction for abusing an altar boy after Sunday Mass twice in the 1990s. At that time, the Roman Catholic priest was pastor at St. Edward's the Confessor in Milford.

The latest conviction could add 20 years to his prison sentence.

Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Solari told the jury at the start of the trial last week that the victim was 9 years old when the abuse began and had been attending religious instruction at the church.

The victim, now 23 and living out of state, testified that he was abused by Banko in a locked bathroom in the church's parish center. The abuse happened several times, the victim told jurors.

The jury reviewed videotaped testimony from an investigator who interviewed the victim before delivering its verdict just before noon.

The investigator, during her testimony, identified photos showing the victim with Banko during a First Holy Communion ceremony and described the victim's emotional difficulty discussing the abuse.

Banko was convicted on separate counts of first-degree aggravated sexual assault and second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

He remains a priest, but cannot serve Mass or perform other priestly duties. A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Metuchen said he has not undergone a formal laicization, which would strip him of his ordination. More details would come in a statement from the diocese later today, said the spokeswoman, Joanne Ward.

Public Defender David Hamilton, who represented Banko today, said his client maintains his innocence on both convictions.


Catholic World News (Dec 11, 2002)

New Jersey Priest Convicted Of Molesting Boy

Dec. 11, 2002


FLEMINGTON, New Jersey, Dec 11, 02 (CWNews.com) - A New Jersey priest was convicted on Wednesday of molesting a boy. Father John Banko, 56, had been charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, and child endangerment. He could receive up to 35 years in prison.

Earlier this week, Banko testified that he had engaged in sex with men and women during his nearly 30 years in the priesthood and said that his vow of celibacy made no direct mention of abstaining from sex. He denied molesting the boy, now 20.

Prosecutors had alleged a pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior toward minors dating back 30 years to when he was a seminarian in Baltimore.

In a statement Wednesday, Metuchen Diocese spokesman Ronald C. Rak called Banko's actions "abhorrent" and said, "Such conduct on the part of anyone affiliated with the Diocese is not, and will not, be tolerated."


And yet, such behavior WAS tolerated.  I suppose one man's idea of sex is not at all the same as another man's person's idea of sex.  (God knows age and position makes no difference in such matters!) 

Cigar, anyone? 

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