Indian priest arrested in US gets bail; suspects to have been trapped

Story: Matters India

Miami: An Indian priest, who was arrested in the United States on charges of possession of pornography and distributing it to a minor​​, was released on bail on January 10.

The Indian community in Miami, mostly Catholics from Kerala, managed to raise the bail amount of US$10,000 for Fr. Jose Palimattom, who was lodged in the West Palm Beach County Detention Center since January 6.

The priest is now living in Broward County, Florida, and the Indian community is taking care of him.

Father Palimattom was apparently punished for an imprudent action and someone tried to take advantage of it, an Indian Catholic leader in Miami told Matters India requesting anonymity.

The 48-year-old priest, who belongs to the Order of Friars Minor or Franciscans, was serving as assistant at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in West Palm Beach, Florida, since December 2014. The parish is some 45 minutes drive from Miami.

Immediately after his arrests, the US media reported that the Indian priest was accused of showing porn to a 14-year-old boy. The teenager’s father had alerted the authorities and the police produced him in court on January 6 and sent him to the detention center.

The US media also reported that Fr Palimattom had got into trouble in India for a similar case and alleged that the incident was not reported to law enforcement.

Meanwhile some Indian websites claimed the priest was innocent and that he was framed by the teenager’s family. According to them, the priest had snatched a mobile from the teenager who was browsing porn pictures in it. The priest deleted the pictures and handed the cell phone back to the boy.

The upset teenager informed his parents that the priest had sought his help to get some porn pictures deleted from the priest’s cell phone.

Sources in Miami said that after coming to the US the priest got ​​a smart phone from the parish and he was learning to use it. On January 4, while he was greeting people after the Sunday Mass, he asked a young man who he thought was mature to get some pictures deleted.

The boy later returned the phone to Father Palimattom, the sources said.

The day progressed as usual. In the evening Father Palimattom got a call from the main parish priest that the morning incident was turning ugly for him. The next day officers arrived to question Father Palimattom.

The priest explained to them what happened. So the officers concluded that Father Palimattom had asked boy’s help to delete the pictures from his phone.

The officers also asked him if he had faced any similar incident in the past. Father Palimattom, who is not very familiar with the American accent, understood the question as whether he had received any instructions regarding this. The priest answered that he had received orientation on how to deal with people in the States.

“So that was the basis of his admission that he had had a prior incident like that and that was not reported to the police,” the sources said.

Meanwhile the West Palm Beach diocese that had hired him has terminated his service. Upon learning about the allegations, the diocese had contacted authorities and cooperated in the investigation that led to the priest’s arrest.

Now, Father Palimattom has to go through the legal procedures before figuring out his future course of action.

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