Pennsylvania priest pleads guilty to sexual abuse of 2 boys
BROOKVILLE, Pa. (AP) — One of two Roman Catholic priests charged as a result of the damning Pennsylvania grand jury investigation admitted he sexually abused children, pleading guilty Wednesday to corruption of minors and child endangerment.
The Rev. David Lee Poulson , 65, of Oil City, was arrested earlier this year during a grand jury probe that concluded hundreds of clergy in the state had sexually abused at least 1,000 children over seven decades.
Prosecutors say Poulson abused an altar boy in church rectories and had him confess afterward. They say he also abused the boy and attempted to assault another boy at a hunting camp.
“Today’s guilty plea by a predator priest in Jefferson County is a clear statement that no matter who abuses a child, no one is above the law,” said state Attorney General Josh Shapiro at a news conference after the hearing in the Brookville courthouse, which is about 80 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.
Poulson took the victims to his primitive, secluded hunting camp in Jefferson County about a decade ago, where they watched horror movies on a laptop and he abused them, prosecutors said. The victims were 8 and 15 at the time the crimes occurred, according to authorities.
Shapiro said he expected Poulson to have to register as a sex offender for at least a decade. Sentencing has not been scheduled.
The Erie diocese turned over a “confidential memorandum” dated in 2010 that contained an admission by Poulson that he had been “aroused” by a boy, prosecutors said. Poulson resigned from the Erie diocese earlier this year, after a military chaplain in Texas reported a 23-year-old had alleged he was abused by Poulson starting at age 8, prosecutors said.
Poulson’s lawyer did not return phone messages seeking comment.
Erie Bishop Lawrence T. Persico issued a statement saying he was “saddened by every aspect of this situation.”
“Many hearts have been broken, particularly those of the victims and their loved ones,” Persico said, promising to contact police with all reports of sexual misconduct and cooperate with any investigations.
The other priest charged in the investigation, the Rev. John Thomas Sweeney of the Greensburg diocese, pleaded guilty to indecent assault this summer and is awaiting his sentencing.
The grand jury’s report, made public in August, has roiled the Catholic church and prompted calls for Pennsylvania state legislation to allow people to file civil lawsuits over child sexual abuse allegations that would otherwise be too old to pursue. Talks on such legislation in the General Assembly have so far failed to reach a deal, and state lawmakers’ two-year session is nearing its end.
Shapiro said since the grand jury report was issued, a hotline operated by his office to field reports of child sexual abuse has received nearly 1,300 calls.