Thursday, January 23, 2014

Police: Lansdale priest admitted touching man's genitals in YMCA locker room

A Lansdale priest admitted to detectives that he touched a man’s genitals in a YMCA locker room in December, police alleged in a criminal complaint filed in district court.
 
John H. Roebuck, 64 — a parochial vicar at Saint Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church in Lansdale and previously the parochial vicar at Saint Thomas the Apostle Church in Glen Mills — turned himself in to authorities on Jan. 17, four days after a warrant was issued for his arrest in connection with the alleged Dec. 15 incident. He was arraigned on one count each of misdemeanor indecent assault and summary harassment.

Roebuck originally was scheduled to appear at District Judge Albert Augustine’s Skippack courtroom on Thursday morning for a preliminary hearing on the charges, but the proceedings were continued at the behest of his attorney, according to court personnel, who said a new date is pending but that the hearing likely won’t occur for at least another month.

Lansdale police have said that an investigation began on Dec. 16 after the alleged victim in the case, an adult male, reported a locker room incident that purportedly took place around 7 p.m. on Dec. 15.

According to the criminal complaint, the alleged victim said that he went to the North Penn YMCA on the 600 block of East Main Street around 6 p.m. that evening and lifted weights for approximately 40 minutes before taking a shower.

The man told police that while he was showering, another man who later was identified as Roebuck entered the showers and the man “felt as though Roebuck was staring at him and he felt uncomfortable,” according to the complaint.

The man put his bathing suit on, left the showers and went into the sauna, the complaint states, and Roebuck then went into the sauna about a minute later and introduced himself to the man as “John.”

The two men shook hands, at which point Roebuck allegedly pulled the man close to him, causing them to “bump shoulders,” according to the complaint.

After exiting the sauna shortly before 7 p.m., the alleged victim went to a sink outside the sauna to wash his face where he saw Roebuck standing several feet behind him. The man reportedly walked away from the sink area and told Roebuck, “See you later,” the complaint states.

At that point, police said, Roebuck shook the man’s hand and again pulled the alleged victim close to him, this time reportedly grabbing the man’s genitals with his other hand and asking, “Do you want to?”

The man said no and told Roebuck not to touch him, but Roebuck allegedly replied, “Since we are here alone, I thought maybe we could,” according to the complaint.

The man again said no, and then reported the incident to a YMCA employee at the front desk before leaving the building.

According to the complaint, the employee confronted Roebuck, who was still inside the facility, about the incident, but Roebuck “denied any improper conduct” with the victim.

The victim reported to police that he did not give consent for Roebuck to touch his genitals, the complaint states.

On Dec. 19, detectives interviewed Roebuck, and at that time he admitted that he was present at the YMCA on Dec. 15 and that he touched the victim’s genitals, according to the complaint.

Roebuck remains free on $50,000 unsecured bail set by Augustine at his Jan. 17 preliminary arraignment.

In the hours after Roebuck’s arrest, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued a statement that read, in part, “The alleged conduct leading to his arrest did not involve a minor,” adding that the allegations are “deeply troubling.”

Archdiocese spokesman Kenneth Gavin said Roebuck has been placed on administrative leave, meaning he is removed from all duties within the archdiocese, and that the archdiocese is “cooperating fully with the police investigation.”

According to CatholicPhilly.com, a website affiliated with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput assigned Roebuck to Saint Stanislaus from his previous position as a parochial vicar at Saint Thomas the Apostle in Glen Mills effective July 16, 2013.

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