BOONVILLE, Mo. (AP) - A former Catholic priest pleaded guilty Tuesday in Cooper County Circuit Court to three felonies for molesting three teenage boys in the 1980s and was sentenced to 12 years, to run concurrently, on each charge.
(Photo Taken 1976)
Gerald J. Howard, who also was known as Carmine Sita, admitted to drugging two 14-year-olds and a 15-year-old and forcing them to commit sexual acts or forcing himself on them between May 1984 and September 1987. In taking a plea deal with Cooper County Prosecutor Doug Abele, Howard pleaded guilty to two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of attempted forcible sodomy and four other felony charges were dismissed. Howard admitted to giving the victims marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, LSD and psychotropic mushrooms.
Two of the boys, the 14-year-olds, Howard befriended while he was a priest at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Boonville. Howard met the third after he left the parish, Abele said in court. Howard would take at least two of the boys on long rides in the country without other supervision and, in the first two cases, abused them either in the car, at his apartment or in the parishâs rectory. The third boy was raped at Howardâs apartment on Third Street in Boonville, Abele said.
All three of the boys were afraid to disobey a priest and Howard, who turns 70 next year, also threatened them with physical harm if they told anyone, Abele said. Howard also outweighed each victim by about 100 pounds and was several inches taller, Abele said. This size and weight discrepancy enabled Howard to âexercise his will overâ the victims, Abele said.
Abele gave Cooper County Circuit Judge Robert Koffman four letters from the three victims, whom Abele referred to in court as John Doe 1, 2 and 3.
âThereâs some things that jump off the page to me,â Koffman said of the letters. âAll of these victims were children and have had their lives turned around.â
Twelve years pales in comparison to the âhorrible painâ Howard caused the boys, Koffman said.
âNot one believes that whatâs being offered in this case is enough but theyâre willing to accept it,â he said.
In the late â70s and early â80, Howard served as a priest in Jersey City, N.J., and was known as Carmine Sita. He pleaded guilty in 1982 to sexually abusing a boy, and was subsequently accused in a lawsuit of molesting five others. After he pleaded guilty, Howard completed a sexual abuse treatment program, changed his name and then-Bishop Michael McAuliffe of Jefferson City sent him to Boonville as an associate pastor at the church. McAuliffe died in 2005. The Archdiocese of Newark settled the lawsuit in May last year for $650,000.
The three victims recounted Howardâs crimes in a hearing in October 2012. Their stories had similarities to the crimes in New Jersey, in which Howard was caught with drugs in a car with an underage boy.
Howardâs current address was listed in Bloomfield, N.J., in online court records. Howard was arrested in New Jersey and charged in Missouri in 2010. Having served about four years already, his attorney, James L. Rutter of Columbia, noted in court that in Missouri, once a prisoner turns 70, they could be eligible for parole if theyâve served at least 40 percent of their sentence when theyâve been convicted of three crimes.
Koffman said it isnât guaranteed that Howard will be released before his full 12-year sentence is up.
âThey live a life full of punishment,â Koffman said to Howard of his victims, âwhich is worse than what youâre getting.â