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A New Jersey priest who allegedly threatened an eight-year-old parishioner with an empty musket will plead not guilty to child endangerment and aggravated assault at his arraignment. Father Kevin Carter's lawyer says the incident stemmed from a football rivalry and was just a joke.
One Sunday before Mass last month, Giants fan Father Carter allegedly pulled a boy wearing a Dallas Cowboys jersey into a rectory room at St. Margaret of Cortona Roman Catholic Church, stood him against the wall, and aimed an empty gun at him. It may have been a joke, but the Bergen County Prosecutor's office is not laughing.
Carter is probably not amused anymore either. The priest was arrested last Friday and is out on $15,000 bail after the Newark Archdiocese reported him to authorities last week. A parishioner is said to have told the diocese about the incident.
The priest explained himself to his flock on Sunday before starting services. He told the congregation that the charges stem from a misinterpretation of his jesting.
A witness, Richard Fritzky, says the priest did nothing wrong. "I neither saw Father Kevin raise the rifle nor threaten anyone," Fritzky told The Record.
He said that he and the priest are Civil War buffs and that the musket was out for that reason, not because the priest aimed a gun at a child.
Perspectives of Church and State
Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said that the charges were based on witness reports and are warranted. He warned that the priest should and would receive no special treatment.
Meanwhile, church members showed support for Carter before services on Sunday. The priest read a statement affirming his innocence that was applauded. One churchgoer called whoever had denounced the priest to the diocese a Judah.
Carter was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in Newark in 1986. He began serving at St. Margaret of Cortona in February 2013. His attorney will plead not-guilty to the charges against him at an arraignment tomorrow afternoon.