Monday, June 15, 2009

Catholic priest pleads guilty to child abuse

Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Ex-Charlotte priest pleads guilty to abuse
News-Talk Radio 1110WBT Charlotte, Carolina
February 2, 2009


A Catholic priest accused of the first known instance of clergy abuse in Charlotte has pleaded guilty to molestation charges.

The Rev. Robert Yurgel, 44, cut a deal with prosecutors that would send him to prison for 8-10 years, in exchange for pleading guilty to one count of sexual offense against a minor.

Yurgel was charged with molesting a teenage boy at Charlotte's St. Matthew Catholic Church in the late 1990s, when Yurgel was an assistant to the pastor.

When he was arrested in early 2008, Yurgel was working with the Franciscan Friars in New Jersey.

His accuser, who at the time was an altar boy at the church, said Yurgel also molested him in Yurgel's car, and at the boy's Charlotte home while his parents were away.

The alleged victim, now 24, read a statement in court, urging other molestation victims to come forward.

The accuser told Yurgel he robbed him of his childhood, and the experience continues to haunt him in nightmares.

His mother said Yurgel would "be in prison and away from not only our children and loved ones, but all children of the world.”

Yurgel kept silent during the hearing.

The accuser is suing Yurgel, the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, and the Capuchin Fransican Friars, of which Yurgel is a member.

The lawsuit claims the two groups tried to cover up the alleged abuse by transfering him to New Jersey in October 1999.

The transfer took place, the lawsuit claims, around the same time the accuser accidentally sent an email professing his love for Yurgel to a church employee.

A Diocese spokesman denies the allegation of "rush transfer," calling it "a complete falsehood."

Following Monday's hearing, the Diocese released a statement reiterating its stance it "was not made aware of any complaints concerning (Yurgel's) conduct with minors" during his time in Charlotte until after his arrest.

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