Molestation Charges Against Priest Dropped
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ The state dropped sexual assault charges Thursday against a Roman Catholic priest accused of fondling three young boys, citing a defective indictment, but prosecutors said they would reinstate the charges.
The charges against the Rev. Armand V. Ventre were dropped the day he was to go on trial in Providence County Superior Court on three counts of second- degree sexual assault, punishable by up to 45 years in prison.
Two of the three counts are correct, but one was filed under the wrong statute, said Special Assistant Attorney General Robert Craven. The state will act by Tuesday to correct the error, reinstate all three charges and proceed with the trial, he said.
″It’s better to put all your eggs down in front of a jury at one time,″ Craven said. ″We chose to step back, punt and fight another day.″
But the Diocese of Providence said the 53-year-old priest would resume immediately his duties as pastor of Our Lady of Good Help Church in Burrillville. Ventre had been on a leave of absence since the indictments were handed up in July.
″The entire matter has been a very difficult and trying experience for Father Ventre, for members of his parish ... and for the Diocese of Providence,″ the statement said. ″We are therefore naturally relieved that the legal process has been completed and we respect the integrity of the court process.″
Ventre was accused of sexually assaulting the boys at the church rectory and at his Glocester summer home from 1981 to 1984.
His lawyer, John F. Sheehan, denied the allegations.
″He washed them or helped them take their baths,″ Sheehan said. ″They were in a cabin by a lake with primitive facilities. It’s a shame what they’re putting him through.″
Ventre became the third Rhode Island priest in a year accused of sexual assault after his case was put before a second grand jury. The first panel refused to indict the priest.