Rev. Joseph Sica, 52, a Roman Catholic priest was arrested on perjury charges in Harrisburg this week and accused of lying about his relationship with a mobster in testimony to a grand jury. It is a fascinating case. Often such cases involve first amendment protections for priests, but this indictment is based on alleged social ties and not some confessional issue.
The grand jury was investigating casino resort owner Louis DeNaples and whether DeNaples misled the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board when he said he had no connections to organized crime. Sica told the grand jury that he had virtually no contact to the late Russell Bufalino, an organized crime boss. However, investigators found a photograph that showed Sica arm-in-arm with Bufalino and another photo of him with William D’Elia of Hughestown, who reputedly heads the Bufalino crime family now.
Also, in a 1982 letter to Ginny Thornburgh, the wife of then-Gov. Dick Thornburgh, Sica referred to Bufalino as “his friend” and asked her to help free Bufalino, whom he called an innocent man, prosecutors said. Dauphin County Judge Todd A. Hoover scheduled a preliminary hearing for January 25. It was unclear whether Sica had a lawyer.Bill Genello, a spokesman for the Diocese of Scranton, called the arrest a “deeply distressing development” and said the diocese had granted Sica’s request for a leave of absence.Sica, who lives at a church rectory, will not publicly celebrate Mass while he attends to his legal problems, Genello said in a statement.DeNaples’ spokesman, Kevin Feeley, said the man’s family took in Sica as a child and essentially raised him. The two men have been friends for more than 40 years, he said.That “does not change the fact that Louis DeNaples has no ties to organized crime,” Feeley said.Fran Chardo, a Dauphin County prosecutor, told the judge that Sica owns a handgun and had $1,000 in cash on him when he was arrested.
These allegations take the case out of the usual difficulties of free exercise and make it a standard false statements case, albeit with an unusual defendant.
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