- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A federal judge has tossed out one of the five convictions against a Roman Catholic priest charged with traveling to Honduras to molest street children during missionary trips, but denied his request for a new trial.

The Rev. Joseph Maurizio Jr. was accused of traveling to a Honduran orphanage from 2004 to 2009 to molest three young boys - a charge known as sexual tourism. He was convicted in September on three counts of engaging or attempting to engage in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places as well as for having child pornography and money laundering.

Altoona attorney Steven Passarello appealed the verdicts in October and requested a new trial, saying that prosecutors did not present enough evidence and left considerable doubt that Maurizio was guilty.

U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson on Tuesday denied the request for a new trial, but he also acquitted the 70-year-old Maurizio on a count related to the boys’ abuse.

“We’re ecstatic in regard to the one count,” Passarello told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He (Gibson) agreed there was simply not enough evidence for the finding of guilt.”

During the trial, a key witness recanted on the stand, testifying he was never molested by Maurizio as a 14-year-old boy. Prosecutors argued that another youth had witnessed the abuse. Two other Honduran men testified that Maurizio abused them, one saying the priest offered him candy so the priest could fondle him and the other saying the priest asked to take his photo while he and another child, both about 14, were taking showers.

The Associated Press does not identify people who may be victims of sexual assaults.

Maurizio, a former pastor at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Central City, has denied any wrongdoing. His attorney said he plans to appeal after sentencing, scheduled for Feb. 2.

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