Monday, February 07, 2011

D.C. priest on leave faces more charges of sex abuse

A Catholic friar who was convicted of inappropriately touching a teenage boy in the District of Columbia in 2007 has been arrested in Florida on charges of having a sexual relationship (it's actually called "RAPE") with a 14-year-old boy.

William C. Wert, 53, is being held in a Sarasota County jail on 10 counts of committing a sex offense against a child. He had been living in a retirement home for clergy in Venice, Fla. He went there after he was found guilty of assaulting a 14-year-old he had followed from a Metro station.

Last week, another 14-year-old boy and his father filed a complaint after the father found inappropriate messages from Wert on his son's cell phone, sheriff's deputies said.

Investigators found text messages and a motel room receipt connecting Wert to the boy.

Deputies said Wert engaged in sex with the boy several times between September 2010 and last month.

At the time of the D.C. incident, Wert oversaw Whitefriars Hall in Northeast Washington, where he trained young men to be priests.

A spokesman for Whitefriars Hall on Friday said Wert hadn't worked at the institution in four years and referred inquiries to the Chicago office of the Order of Carmelites. A message left at the headquarters was not returned.

According to D.C. court documents, on May 22, 2007, Wert followed a boy from the from the Brookland-CUA Metro station in Northeast Washington.

Wert began to talk to the boy, who was walking home from school. After he asked the boy his name, Wert asked, "Do you know somewhere we can hide?"

Police said he grabbed the boy's inner thigh, and the teenager yelled and hit Wert.

When police arrived, Wert claimed that the boy tried to rob him, but later admitted that he had was interested in the boy and apologized because there had been a mistake because he "misread" the teenager, documents said.

After a two-day trial, a D.C. judge found Wert guilty of simple assault. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail.

According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Wert moved into the retirement home for Order of Carmelites in 2008.

A retired priest who lived at the home told the newspaper that Wert never explained why he had been on leave from Washington, D.C. and had recently bought a new Ford Mustang that was parked out front.

On the Carmelite web site it says of Wert, "William Wert, O.Carm., is the new Prior of Whitefriars Hall, the Carmelite House of Formation in Washington, DC. Father Bill made his profession in the Order in 1980 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1986. In this position as the Director of Formation, he oversees all the levels of formation for the Carmelite students. He will continue in his role as coordinator for the Province’s vocation team. He follow Father Emmett Gavin, O.Carm., who now ministers in New Jersey as a canonist for the Archdiocese of Newark, and as an associate pastor at Saint Anastasia’s Parish in Teaneck."

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