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  Home :: 2006 December :: Ex-priest declines deal on charges in motel case

James Hanley, the former Catholic priest whoadmitted molesting about a dozen boys in what was NewJersey's most notorious clergy sex abuse case,declined a prosecutor's plea offer yesterday oncharges in an unrelated March inci dent at a Secaucusmotel.

Hanley, 70, appeared yesterday afternoon in HudsonCounty Superior Court for a brief hearing, shackled andwearing a green jail uniform and walking with a cane. Hehas been jailed since late October, when a warrant wasissued for his arrest for missing a court date,Assistant Prosecutor Howard Bell said.

Hanley was indicted in June on charges of possessing aweapon for an unlawful purpose and making terroristicthreats, Bell said. He will remain in jail until his nextcourt date, Jan. 22, unless he can post his $50,000bail, which has a 10 percent cash option.

Authorities say that on March 10 Hanley swung a bat atthree employees at the Extended Stay Motel in Secaucus. Anofficer drew his gun and ordered Hanley to drop the bat,but Hanley did not, prosecutors say. Instead, Hanleyturned around and started to walk away, still holding thebat, prosecutors say.

The officer put his gun back in his holster, kickedHanley's legs out from under him and arrested him,prosecutors say.

The deal discussed in court yesterday would have involvedprobation and 364 days in jail, Bell said.

Hanley's lawyer, John Conbery, could not bereached late yesterday afternoon for comment.

Hanley, who admitted molesting boys between 1968 and1982, never spent a day in jail for that abuse, largelybecause nobody told police until statutes of limitationshad expired. He was formally removed from the priesthood in2002.

Last year, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Patersonreached a $5 million settlement with 21 people who saidHanley abused them. In court papers, the former priest hasadmitted abusing about a dozen boys -- masturbating andshowering with them and engaging in oral sex.

Most of the victims were parishioners at the Church ofSt. Joseph in Mendham when Hanley was a priest there.

He no longer has formal ties to the Paterson Diocese,save for a monthly stipend he receives.

Many of Hanley's victims have followed the motelcase closely, hoping to see their abuser jailed. Nonewas in court yesterday, though the parents of one victim,Mark Serrano, were there.

"He's finally in a place where kidscan't be harmed by him," Mark Serrano said."I don't know for how long, though."

Jeff Diamant covers religion. He may be reachedat jdiamant@star or (973) 392-1547.

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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia