SCRANTON — Charges were dismissed in Lackawanna County court against a priest accused of improper acts with a teen girl.
In April, Fr. Philip Altavilla who was the pastor at St. Peter’s Cathedral in downtown Scranton was charged with indecent assault and corruption of minors. He was accused of fondling a 13-year-old girl’s feet and legs, later admitting he had a foot fetish.
The alleged incident happened in 1998. The charges would fit within the statute of limitations that stand today but not the statute that existed in 1998.
“Had we known then what we know now, the charges probably would not have been filed.”
Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola says he won’t fight a judge’s decision to dismiss one of his offices most high-profile cases against Diocese of Scranton priest Philip Altavilla. The charges he faced, indecent assault and corruption of minors, were thrown out because the statute of limitations had run out.
“The victim should know and the public should know that this does not affect the truthfulness of her statement. It doesn’t do that. It just means the statute of limitations has run.”
Altavilla was accused in April when a former parishioner came forward saying Altavilla fondled her feet and legs when she was 13 years old.
The following investigation uncovered much more about Fr. Altavilla. Police found foot fetish pornography and videos depicting rape on his computer.
“Sure it’s a win, it’s a legal win for us but it’s not a win for Fr. Altavilla because his reputation is ruined. You know, you can’t un-ring the bell,” said defense attorney Paul Walker.
Underneath the church bells at Altavilla’s former parish, St. Peter’s Cathedral in downtown Scranton, parishioners had mixed feelings about the case being dismissed.
“This doesn’t really rise up to the level of the bad things that are going on in our community right now. The real abuses, abortion, all the promiscuity that’s going on. So, I don’t know why this really got this big,” said Mildred Decelles of Dunmore.
“I’m sure it’s good for Fr. Altavilla. I’m not sure really how the church is going to look at it. The fact that he admitted to that type of behavior, I’m sure he will probably never be allowed back in,” said Steve Andrichak of Sterling.
District Attorney Andy Jarbola says his office does not have any plans to file any more charges against Altavilla, but they believe there may be more victims who have not come forward.
Fr. Altavilla is still suspended from the Diocese of Scranton while the church does its own review of his case.