Sunday, November 28, 2010

Priest pleads guilty
Ex-priest pleads guilty on sex charges
BY STACI WILSON (Staff Writer)Published: November 20, 2010

MONTROSE - A former Episcopal priest pleaded guilty in Susquehanna County Court on Friday to sexually assaulting two teen boys.

Ralph Johnson, 83, of Gibson Twp., entered guilty pleas to two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse lodged against him in two separate cases. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

One of the boys - now in his 20s - was 14 at the time of the alleged abuse and has a mental disability.

The other victim, now 29, was between the ages of 11 and 15 during the time of the alleged abuse, according to police.

The Times-Tribune does not identify the victims of sexual assault.

District Attorney Jason Legg said the cases brought against Mr. Johnson underscore the fallacy of people who question victims who do not report these types of crimes sooner.

"The simple truth is that victims rarely report sexual abuse when it occurs. It usually takes a long time," Mr. Legg said. "In this case, we know that one of the victims was abused in the early 1990s and we know that the victim was telling the truth."

One of the components of this case, explained the district attorney, involved the applicable statute of limitations - and the various extensions by the state.

"If the Legislature had not repeatedly extended the statute of limitations, Mr. Johnson would have avoided legal responsibility for this horrific conduct," Mr. Legg said.

"I am thankful that the Legislature understands just how hard these crimes are for victims to report, and has extended the statute of limitations in recognition of those difficulties."

President Judge Kenneth Seamans ordered Mr. Johnson to undergo an evaluation by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board prior to sentencing on March 24.

Mr. Johnson was deposed in 2006 by Bishop Gladstone Adams of the Central New York Episcopal Diocese after similar allegations of inappropriate conduct surfaced while Mr. Johnson was serving at a parish in Owego, N.Y.

In a March interview, Bishop Adams said no victim ever came forward at that time to verify the allegations but he felt the information was credible enough to merit Mr. Johnson's discipline.

While ordained, Mr. Johnson served in parishes in Buckingham, part of a Philadelphia-area diocese; as well as at New York churches of St. Paul's, Owego; Zion Church, Windsor; and St. Ann's, Afton. He never served a parish in Susquehanna County or the Diocese of Bethlehem.

He has lived in the Gibson area since 1987. Prior to that, he owned property on Stanton Road in Thompson Twp.

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