New Jersey Ex-Priest Jailed After Working With Kids

NBC10 Philadelphia: A judge has ordered a New Jersey priest wait behind bars while a grand jury considers whether he violated a legal agreement to stay away from children.

Bail for Michael Fugee remains at $25,000 following his brief court appearance Tuesday in Bergen County, where he’s charged with seven counts of judicial contempt. Fugee did not have an attorney with him at his appearance Tuesday. He resigned from the Archdiocese of Newark on May 2, saying in a letter that he did not inform the archdiocese that he had a youth ministry and was working with children.

“My failure to request the required permissions to engage in those ministry activities is my fault, my fault alone,” Fugee wrote. “I am sorry that my actions have caused pain to my church and to her people.”

Fugee was arrested Monday on seven counts of contempt of a judicial order and is to appear in court Tuesday.

In 2003, Fugee was convicted of aggravated criminal assault after police say he confessed to grabbing a teenage boy’s crotch. The conviction was thrown out but Fugee reached a deal with Bergen County prosecutors that allowed him to return to the ministry if his job didn’t involve unsupervised contact with children under 18.

Since then, authorities say, Fugee became a regular fixture at a Colts Neck parish youth group, hearing confession from minors. He also traveled with the youth group to overnight retreats, including a trip to Canada, according to parishioners and authorities.

Authorities said Fugee heard confessions from minors seven times between April 2010 and December 2012 at churches, an environmental center and a parishioner’s house.

In the earlier case, he allegedly confessed to police that while on vacation in Virginia with a boy and his mother who were parishioners at his Wyckoff church, he wrestled with the boy and “grabbed his crotch” and became sexually “excited.”

After his conviction was thrown out and he entered the agreement with prosecutors, Fugee was placed in a hospital ministry with no pediatric unit, the archdiocese said. He later was put in an administrative position in the main archdiocesan offices.

An archdiocesan official said that if the archdiocese had known of Fugee’s work with youth, he would have been told he could not work with children at the Colts Neck parish. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark said it takes the allegations seriously and will cooperate fully with authorities.

“Nothing is more sacred than the welfare of our children,” spokesman James Goodness said in a statement. “We are in the process of taking steps to ensure that, as much as humanly possible, this type of thing cannot happen again.”