Former priest in Charleroi indicted on charge of possession child porn

May 20, 2013
Mary, Mother of the Church in Charleroi - Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A former Roman Catholic priest in Charleroi who was stripped of his collar amid allegations he sexually abused a child decades ago has been indicted in federal court on a charge of possessing child pornography.

U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton announced Monday the indictment was unsealed Friday against David Dzermejko, 64, of Braddock, who remains free on $50,000 unsecured bond after his arrest last week.

The one-count indictment accused Dzermejko of having photographs Jan. 11 in computer and graphic files involving children engaging in sexually explicit conduct, court records show.

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh pledged full cooperation with law enforcement in the investigation of Dzermejko, who was removed in June 2009 from Mary, Mother of the Church in Charleroi after a couple came forward and claimed the priest had molested their son at another parish three decades ago, said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, diocesan spokesman. The couple’s son was deceased at the time the allegations were made, and authorities never brought any criminal charges in the case because the statute of limitations had expired, Lengwin said.

Once the allegations were publicized, two other men came forward will similar accusations against Dzermejko.

The first two allegations were deemed “credible” by the diocese, Lengwin said, and it concluded Dzermejko was unsuitable for the priesthood.

“Since 2009, Dzermejko has been forbidden from celebrating the sacraments publicly, from wearing clerical attire, or presenting himself publicly as a priest,” Lengwin stated in a news release.

He has been prohibited under a court order signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan from having unsupervised contact with children and faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted.

His attorney, John A. Knoor in Pittsburgh, said he couldn’t comment on the arrest without having discovery material from prosecutors on the “particulars of the case.”

Knoor said he was concerned that the media “was picking up” on the 2009 allegations as his client still maintains they are untrue.

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik issued a statement Monday indicating the diocese had no prior knowledge of the allegations presented in the indictment.

He said he “forcefully” reminded Pittsburgh priests and deacons in a Jan. 4 letter it’s a crime to view or possess child pornography.

Zubik’s letter to the priesthood was dated two days after Bartley Sorensen, 61, a former priest at St. John Fisher Parish in Churchill, Allegheny County, was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to possessing a large assortment of child pornography.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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