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Priest Charged with Sex Offenses on Penn State Scranton Campus May Have Defense

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2013 | Sex Offenses

Police caught a Catholic priest engaging in a sexual act with a 15 year old boy on the Penn State Scranton campus in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, on September 19, 2013. Various sex offense charges have been filed against Rev. W. Jeffrey Paulish including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, unlawful contact with a minor, indecent assault, indecent exposure and corruption of minors.

By far the most serious charge lodged against Paulish is involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, usually referred to as IDSI. IDSI as defined as oral or anal sex, or penetration of the genitals with a foreign object, either without consent of a victim, or where one partner factually consents, but is less than 16 years of age, and the other partner is more than four years older. Most IDSI cases involve oral sex, and that was likely the case here. IDSI is a first degree felony and carries a 10-20 year mandatory minimum under Pennsylvania law. This 10-20 year mandatory minimum is not just applicable to a 56 year old priest having oral sex with a 15 year old boy. It is equally applicable to a 20 year old boy receiving fellatio from his 15 year old girlfriend. Those convicted of IDSI also must register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives pursuant to SORNA. (Sexual Offender Notification Act).

At this point, stories of priests having sex with teenagers, especially teenage boys, have become so commonplace that they are barely newsworthy outside the local community where they occurred, however, this case is markedly different from the “traditional” clergy sexual molestation scenario. This case apparently did not involve the usual “grooming” behavior. Rather, Paulish claims that he met the boy through the “Casual Encounters” section of Craig’s List. Thus, if Paulish is telling the truth, the boy was actively seeking out sex with adult men, rather than being manipulated into sex following the usual grooming process.

It is also noteworthy that Paulish claims that he repeatedly asked the boy whether he was 18. Paulish could use the “mistake of age” defense at trial, and if the boy confirms that he lied to Paulish about his age, Paulish could have a decent chance of winning at trial. If a sex participant is under 14 years of age, the mistake of age is not available under Pennsylvania law, however, if the younger sex participant is over the age of 14, the mistake of age defense is available. A defendant employing the mistake of age defense must prove by a preponderance of evidence at trial that he reasonably believed the younger partner was over the age of consent.

The age of consent for sex in Pennsylvania is 16. Thus, if a judge or jury believes that Paulish reasonably believed the boy was 16 or over, he would not be guilty of IDSI or any other offense except possibly corruption of minors. If the finder of fact believes that Paulish reasonably believed that the boy was over the age of 18, he would not be guilty of any of the charged offenses. It will be interesting to see how this case plays out.

He is experienced in sex crime defense.

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