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Ex-priest indicted on multiple counts of child molestation

November 5, 2020 GMT

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) — A former Rhode Island priest was indicted Thursday on multiple counts of child molestation, state Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office said.

The grand jury indictment against John Petrocelli was unsealed Thursday and he was arraigned in Providence County Superior Court, according to Neronha’s office.

He faces three counts of first-degree child molestation and nine counts of second-degree child molestation.

Prosecutors say Petrocelli molested three boys under the age of 14 multiple times during his tenure as assistant pastor at Holy Family Parish in Woonsocket from 1981 to 1990.

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Petrocelli, 75, has been the subject of other litigation involving priest misconduct, including a 2008 settlement between the Diocese of Providence and men who said they were abused as boys by Rhode Island priests, including Petrocelli, the Providence Journal reports.

The public defender’s office, which is representing Petrocelli, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Thursday.

The diocese said in a statement that Petrocelli was removed from ministry in 2002 and his name was also included on a list of credibly accused clergy the organization made public last year.

The diocese said it recently received allegations of misconduct against Petrocelli and promptly reported them to law enforcement. It declined to elaborate.

Neronha’s office has been conducting a review of allegations of child abuse by priests and the diocese’s handling of the allegations.