New Jersey priest admits guilt in sexual assault of teenage girl after almost 3 decades

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A Warren County priest admitted that he engaged is sexual acts with a teenage girl in the early 90s, just three months after the victim reported the abuse via the state’s clergy abuse hotline.

Thomas P. Ganley, 63, of Phillipsburg was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault in a case dating back to the 1990s and reported to state's clergy abuse hotline this week. (Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office photo)
Thomas P. Ganley, 63, of Phillipsburg was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault in a case dating back to the 1990s and reported to state’s clergy abuse hotline this week. (Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office photo)

The Rev. Thomas P. Ganley, 63, of Phillipsburg, pleaded guilty to sexual assault before a superior court judge, the state Attorney General’s office announced Monday.

Ganley admitted that he abused the girl when she was “16 or 17 years old, during a time when he had supervisory authority over her” while he was a priest at Saint Cecelia Church in Woodbridge, according to a release from the state.

Ganley had been the head of the youth ministry for the parish at the time, the attorney general’s office said.

He was assigned to Saint Philip & Saint James Church in Phillipsburg when he was arrested on Jan. 16, just two days after his victim called the state’s 24-hour Clergy Abuse Task Force Hotline to report the sexual abuse, authorities said.

Ganley was also a chaplain at Warren General Hospital at the time of his arrest, officials have said.

Under the plea agreement, the state has recommended that Ganley should be sentenced to four years in prison. He was scheduled to be sentenced on July 2.

Ganley will be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and will be prohibited from having any contact with the victim and will not be allowed to have any unsupervised contact with children under the age of 18, the attorney general’s office said.

“Our message today is that we will move swiftly and decisively to secure justice for survivors,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. “Two days after this victim called our hotline, Ganley was arrested – three months later, he pleaded guilty and faces prison.”

This was the first sexual assault case brought by New Jersey’s clergy abuse task force, which was started in September a Pennsylvania grand jury last year detailed decades of abuse by priests.

The hotline, 855-363-6548, was set up by the task force and has received 480 calls as of Monday, the state said.

“We hope that this first guilty plea secured by the Task Force will encourage other victims who have suffered in silence for years or decades to come forward,” former Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino, who leads the Clergy Abuse Task Force, said in a release. “Every caller who contacts our hotline can be assured that their case will be taken seriously, and that we will make every effort to hold their abuser accountable.”

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