Shapiro announces arrest of previous Erie Diocese priest for sexual assault

Local News

Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced today that a previous priest of the Diocese of Erie has been arrested on multiple charges related to sexual assault of multiple young boys.

Father David Poulson, a Roman-Catholic Priest in the Diocese of Erie for four decades, was accused of repeated sexual assault of one young boy beginning when he was eight years old.  And, the abuse of a second victim which began when he was just 15.  Shapiro says Poulson sexually assaulted the two boys while he was active as a priest in the Diocese of Erie. 

He says the abuse occurred in church rectories at St. Michaels Catholic Church in Fryburg, Clarion County, St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Cambridge Springs in Crawford County, and a remote hunting cabin in Jefferson County that Poulson co-owned.  He faces 14 charges including indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors.

Shapiro was passionately and visibly upset as he described the abuse allegations against Poulson in which the first victim was taken to the cabin that had no heat, electricity or running water.  He said that Poulson brought a DVD player and they watched horror movies which eventually led to Poulson fondling the boy and masturbation.  Shapiro says the victim stated that Poulson forced him to reciprocate the acts then go to confession so God could forgive him for his sins.  It’s said that often, the abuse took place on Sunday afternoons after mass (the victim was an altar boy at the time) in the rectory.  This abuse is said to have taken place over 20 times and lasted from 2002-2010, beginning when the boy was only eight years old. 

The second victim stated that the abuse took place when he was 15-18 years old from 2003-2006.  Again, the victim said that Poulson took him to the cabin in Jefferson County.  The relationship began by playing chess, then dinners involving alcohol, gifts, cash, and eventually, the victim says, Poulson tried sliding his hand down his pants to which the victim rolled away.

After being interviewed by officers about the abuse, Shapiro says Poulson admitted to taking over 20 trips to the cabin, saying half of them were trips with young boys.  Officers say he admitted to being attracted to young boys and gave six names of boys he had taken to the cabin with him.  

Shapiro stated that there had been nine or more other boys who claim to have suffered at the hands of Poulson, but due to the statute of limitations on child abuse, they were unable to charge him on all counts of abuse.  Shapiro stated:

“The 37th statewide grand jury investigating clergy sex abuse in the Johnstown/Altoona Diocese called for abolishing the criminal statute of limitations for sex crimes against children.  I renew that call again, here, today in Erie.  I believe it is long past time to reform these arbitrary, arbitrary timeframes so that we can seek justice for all of our children.  There is no statute of limitations on homicide under Pennsylvania law and there shouldn’t be on child abuse either.  I just explained that in this case in the Diocese of Erie our investigators uncovered additional evidence of other sexual assaults but the statute of limitations prohibits us from filing those additional charges.  These victims and all victims are entitled to justice and the statute of limitations should not be a bar toward receiving that justice.  I’m asking the Pennsylvania legislature and Governor Wolf to, again, abolish this statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse.”

Shapiro also accused the Diocese of admitting there was a problem with Poulson back in May of 2010.  He says there was a subpoena for a confidential list from the Diocese which named Poulson as a potential abuser and that they kept him in the Diocese for another eight years after that list was handed over to law enforcement. 

Shapiro says, “No one is above the law.  We will apply the law without fear”.  He added that Poulson faces felony charges.  He was arrested this morning at his mother’s house in Oil City and taken to Jefferson County Jail on $300,000 cash bail.  He faces up to 64 years behind bars and $135,000 in fines.  

Shapiro then thanked the victims for their bravery and urged any other victims to come forward, and they can do so by calling 888-538-8541.

Stay tuned to JET 24 Action News tonight for more. 

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