HOWELL – A former pastor at St. Veronica Catholic Church in Howell has been charged with sexually assaulting a minor in incidents back in the late 1990s, announced Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
Father Brendan Williams, 78, of Lawrence, NJ was arrested and charged with second-degree sexual assault—criminal sexual contact on a victim under the age of 13. Williams was pastor at St. Veronica at the time the alleged criminal acts occurred, between 1997 and 1999. Authorities report that Williams allegedly touched the victim’s intimate parts with his hand on at least three occasions during that time period, twice in Colts Neck, and once in Ocean County.
Williams is now retired and lives in a retirement community for Catholic clergy in Lawrence Township.
Williams is the second priest to be charged in criminal cases filed by the New Jersey Clergy Abuse Task Force, formed in September 2018 by Attorney General Grewal to investigate allegations of clergy abuse. He was processed on the charges by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.
The investigation began with a call to the Clergy Abuse Task Force Hotline.
“Once again a call to our hotline has led to a thorough investigation by members of our Clergy Abuse Task Force and charges against a priest who allegedly assaulted a young girl many years ago,” said Attorney General Grewal. “No person is above the law and we want survivors to know that, despite the passage of time, justice may still be within reach. We will do everything in our power to hold their abusers accountable.”
The Clergy Abuse Task Force sent another Catholic priest, Thomas Ganley, to a four-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting a teenage girl over whom he had supervisory authority in the early 1990s at Saint Cecelia Church in Iselin, NJ, according to the Attorney General.
“Many victims of clergy abuse have been forced to suffer in silence for extended periods of time and this trauma has cast a shadow over their lives. We hope that bringing charges against predatory clergy members will bring some measure of peace to those who have been victimized. We will continue to work tirelessly to pursue all leads and allegations of clergy abuse to bring justice to its victims,” said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
The investigation of Williams is active and ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call Sgt. Michael Magliozzo or Detective Thomas Manzo of the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-431-7160. Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Fichter is prosecuting the case.
All survivors and witnesses of sexual abuse are encouraged to call the hotline at 855-363-6548, which is staffed by trained professionals and operated on a 24/7 basis. More than 540 calls have been received through the hotline to date.