April 18, 2006

Court reverses sex-contact verdict against priest


Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff
A state appeals court yesterday overturned the 2003 conviction of a Catholic priest from Bergen County who was found guilty of ag gravated criminal sexual contact on a teenage boy.

In ordering a new trial for the Rev. Michael Fugee, the court ruled his case suffered because the trial judge improperly charged the jury and wrongly let the panel hear a statement Fugee gave to police when he was arrested in March 2001.

Fugee, 45, was an associate pastor at St. Elizabeth Church in Wyckoff, and has not served as a priest since his arrest. He still receives support payments from the Newark Archdiocese, said James Goodness, an archdiocesan spokesman.

When he was sentenced in 2003, Fugee was ordered to lifelong community supervision and five years' probation. He also must register as a sex offender wherever he lives.

Fugee could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his attor ney, Brian Neary, said Fugee maintains his innocence.

"I guess he'll be a happy man today. That was a hard-fought trial," said Neary, who would not reveal Fugee's whereabouts.

Posted by kshaw at April 18, 2006 10:27 AM