The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

July 17, 2009

Area priest accused of sex abuse

By Patricia Breakey

MIDDLETOWN _ A Margaretville priest was charged Thursday with 20 charges connected to the alleged sexual abuse of six males.

The Rev. James McDevitt, 63, pastor of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, turned himself in and pleaded not guilty during an appearance at Middletown Town Court.

McDevitt is alleged to have told the six males to each take down their pants and underpants and then lie across his lap. He then spanked them three times on their bare buttocks, according to court documents.

The alleged victims range in age from 11 to 19 at the time of the incidents. The majority of the incidents allegedly occurred between October and mid-April, but some of the events with two of the males began three years ago, deputies said.

The misdemeanor charges are six counts of second-degree sexual abuse, seven counts of forcible touching, six counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one count of third-degree sexual abuse.

During McDevitt's arraignment, the father of one of the victims entered the courtroom but was soon escorted out by several deputies and investigators.

The man remained in the parking lot, telling deputies that he was angry because he said McDevitt would not face jail time for the alleged offenses.

McDevitt, who appeared in court with his attorney, George LaMarche III of Troy, was released on $1,000 bail to reappear at 10 a.m. Aug. 13.

As McDevitt left the court, escorted by his attorney, the alleged victim's father screamed that McDevitt deserved to be shot. Deputies surrounded the man to prevent him from approaching the priest.

After McDevitt left the parking area, the child's father continued to pace and swear. The deputies said they were concerned that he might also be angry at Middletown Justice Gary Rosa, who presided over the arraignment.

When Rosa was told that the man was upset, he came to the door of the court, talked privately with the father and then shook his hand.

After a monthlong investigation, deputies applied for an arrest warrant July 9. The investigation is continuing.

A search warrant was executed June 8 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, the church rectory, the parish center and a garage, Delaware County Undersheriff Douglas Vredenburgh said previously.

Vredenburgh said the warrant covered general items related to the alleged crime, including a computer that was missing from the priest's home.

Albany Diocese Director of Communications Kenneth Goldfarb said at the time that the diocese was aware of the search warrant. Goldfarb said McDevitt requested a voluntary leave.

Separately, McDevitt was arrested June 2 after a car accident and charged with driving while intoxicated. Before being assigned to the Margaretville church, McDevitt served the Delhi Catholic Church.

Investigators are asking that anyone who may have information regarding alleged incidents call 746-2336.