A Brick priest was found not guilty Wednesday of charges he molested two children, but was convicted on a lesser charge of groping their mother.
Marukudiyil C. Velan, 65, formerly known as “Father Chris” at the Church of the Visitation on Mantoloking Road, had been on trial following his arrest in July 2012 on charges that he molested a mother and her two children on different occasions, including once when he molested all three during the same day.
According to a report in the Asbury Park Press, an Ocean County jury found Velan not guilty of six crimes related to the alleged molestation of the children, but convicted him on the charge of criminal sexual contact with the mother. The report said the criminal sexual contact charge carries with it a presumption of no incarceration for someone without a previous criminal record.
Criminal sexual contact is not a Meghan’s Law offense, meaning Velan will not likely have to register as a sex offender.
In a series of reports from Press court reporter Kathleen Hopkins, the case against Velan hinged on what prosecutors said was his own admission of guilt on a tape. But S. Karl Mohel, Velan’s attorney, said detectives berated and screamed at Velan, who is not a native English speaker, until he uttered what could be construed as an admission of guilt. Furthermore, Mohel argued that the victim’s story did not add up – at one point, it was alleged that after touching the mother and molesting the children, the group went out for pizza. The defense’s theory was that the accuser’s goal was to collect money from the church in a civil lawsuit.
Velan, officials with the Diocese of Trenton said, has been barred from his priestly faculties and is no longer allowed to remain with the church. His sentencing, the Press report said, is scheduled for Dec. 12.