Priest, woman charged with open lewdness
Charges were filed Friday afternoon against a Tunkhannock priest and female acquaintance who were allegedly involved in a lewd act May 17 in a public park in Wyalusing.
Rev. Daniel Joseph Doherty, 49, and Joanne Mirabelli, 47, both of Tunkhannock, were each charged by Laceyville police with a misdemeanor count of open lewdness, and summary counts of under the influence of an intoxicating beverage, participating in any obscene or indecent act and being in the park after it was closed.
Laceyville Chief Scott Parry said the charges were filed in the court of Magisterial District Judge Fred Wheaton.
According to police criminal complaints, Laceyville patrolmen Matthew Chamberlain and Patrick Butkiewicz said they saw a 2011 Jeep Liberty and a 2011 Subaru parked in the Wyalusing Borough Park around 10 p.m. on Friday, May 17.
They approached the vehicles to perform a welfare check, and as they drove up closer to the Jeep, officer Chamberlain said he observed an unclothed female's back with her hair covering her face.
Officer Butkiewicz activated the spotlight on the patrol car, and according to the complaint, "a male's head appeared from below the level of the window."
The officers noted they then got out of their car but waited for both to get dressed before they approached the vehicle.
On Friday, Chamberlain recalled that as he asked for identity from the man later identified as Doherty, he noticed a clerical collar on the dash of the Subaru and asked him if he were a priest, which the man nodded affirmatively.
He also stated to Chamberlain that they had not been having sex, but when asked what they were doing naked in the back of the Jeep, Doherty did not answer.
Both Doherty and Mirabelli told police they each had drank three glasses of wine at the Wyalusing Hotel before arriving at the park.
Concerned about their ability to drive, Mirabelli was asked if she would submit to a breathalyzer test, which she agreed to, and the results were .240 percent, according to reports.
The legal limit for intoxicatoin in Pennsylvania is .08 percent.
According to the complaint, the two were asked if they had someone who could come get them, because they both appeared unfit to drive.
Mirabelli stated she would get a ride, but was unable to contact anyone.
Officer Butkiewicz suggested they make other arrangements, and the parties left on foot.
The complaint concludes, "While continuing our patrol we maintained a visual on both parties until we saw them approaching the Wyalusing Hotel."
A preliminary hearing for both before Judge Wheaton has been set for June 25.
Rev. Doherty was assigned by the Diocese of Scranton as assistant pastor to Nativity BVM Church, Tunkhannock, and St. Mary of the Lake Church, Lake Winola in Feb. 1, 2012, according to reports
In addition, the Diocese of Scranton issued a press release on Thursday, reporting that Rev. Doherty has been suspended from his position, pending the outcome of the case.
"In response to this situation, the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Scranton, has removed Father's Doherty's faculties and has prohibited him from exercising public ministry pending a legal disposition," the press release read. "In reaction to this matter, Bishop Bambera expressed anger with the apparent inappropriate, immoral and seemingly illegal behavior. Bishop Bambera also expressed concern for the pastor and people of the parish communities in Tunkhannock and Lake Winola where Father Doherty has been serving. 'As we all struggle with the sobering reality of this most regrettable and unacceptable situation, be assured of my prayers and support to provide what is needed to bring healing to all affected," Bishop Bambera reported.
The Diocese also reported that it promised to "cooperate fully as this matter is properly handled by law enforcement."