LEHIGH COUNTY DA - Priest charged with indecent assault
Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said he had approved criminal charges against a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Allentown at a news conference held in the Lehigh County Courthouse Aug. 21.
Kevin Lonergan, 30, of 130 S. 25th St., Pottsville, has been charged with one count each of corruption of minors, a felony of the third degree, and indecent assault, a misdemeanor of the second degree. Lonergan was prohibited from the exercise of public ministry June 7 by decree of the Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert, D. D., bishop of Allentown.
Attorneys for the Diocese, reported to the district attorney in June that Lonergan, while serving as a priest, allegedly had inappropriate sexual contact with a 17-year-old female, “Jane Doe,” whom he met through his work as a priest.
An investigation was opened by Lehigh County Detective Andrew Millen, in the district attorney’s office assisting were county Det. Paul Iannace, commanding officer of the Officer David M. Petzold Digital Forensics Laboratory of Lehigh County, located on the campus of DeSales University, and Senior Deputy District Attorney Anna-Kristie Morffi Marcks, who will prosecute the case in court.
As a result of the investigation, it was determined that in August 2017, Lonergan allegedly met the victim before Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 801 N. 11th St., Allentown. Shortly after the initial meeting, he allegedly obtained her cellphone number from another member of the church.
During the period of December 2017 through January, Lonergan allegedly electronically communicated with Jane Doe. Many of those communications were allegedly sexual in nature and occurred via Snapchat, a social media application through which users can share photos and video.
During some of the electronic communications, Lonergan sent nude images of himself to the victim, Martin alleged.
It is alleged Lonergan hugged the victim at St. Francis of Assisi Church Feb. 1. While he was embracing her, she said she could feel Lonergan was stimulated, and attempted to pull away from him. He allegedly continued to pull her toward him and then grabbed her buttocks.
As a result of the investigation, it is alleged the defendant committed indecent assault and corruption of a minor in his contact with Jane Doe.
Martin expressed his thanks to Schlert for immediately reporting the matter to law enforcement.
“I also wish to advise the public, and the parishioners of the Diocese, that Bishop Schlert wanted to act very quickly and transparently to report this and to inform the public of Lonergan’s removal from active ministry, but he held off, doing so at my request, in order not to compromise our investigation,” Martin said.
Lonergan was arraigned at Central Booking at the Lehigh County Prison, 38 N. Fourth St., Allentown, while the news conference was in progress. His bail was set at $50,000 unsecured, and he was released from Lehigh County Jail.