A Roman Catholic priest most recently assigned to The Church of the Visitation in Brick has been sentenced to two years of probation after being found guilty of groping a woman but cleared on more serious charges of molesting her children.
Superior Court Judge James M. Blaney handed down the sentence Friday to Marukudiyil C. Velan, 65, formerly known as “Father Chris,” the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed.
Velan was charged in July 2012 with molesting a mother and her two children on different occasions, including once when he molested all three during the same day. Velan was at the mother’s residence delivering food since the family was poor and needed assistance, officials have said.
At his trial in 2014, attorney S. Karl Mohel poked holes in the prosecution’s case, pointing to the fact that the group had dinner together after the alleged molestation took place. He also argued a confession the prosecution touted as strong evidence against the priest was marred by the fact that detectives screamed and berated the priest, who is not a native English speaker, until he provided an answer they wanted.
The defense’s theory was that the accuser’s goal was to collect money from the church in a civil lawsuit.
Ultimately, a jury cleared Velan on the molestation charges but convicted him on a charge of criminal sexual contact for inappropriately groping the mother.
Velan maintained his innocence throughout the trial, and was supported in the court room during his trial each day by a group of parishioners. According to a report by Asbury Park Press court reporter Kathleen Hopkins, Velan told Blaney at his sentencing Friday that he “didn’t do anything wrong” and “couldn’t believe what happened.”
Velan, according to the report, is no longer a priest and wants to return to his native India. But he must wait until the two year period of probation ends before he can do so. Mohel said Velan is currently surviving on Social Security.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, known for its strong media statements, said in such a statement Friday, “We are sad that Fr. Marukudiyil Velan, known as ‘Fr. Chris,’ will not do jail time. But we are grateful to the brave family that reported this priest’s crimes. And we are confident that this mom’s courage to speak up and to seek justice will protect more people.”
As criminal sexual contact is a fourth degree crime, it carries no assumption of incarceration and Velan will not have to register as a sex offender.