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Ex-Priest To Be Extradited to New Jersey In Sex Case

Apr 17, 2003 | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

A former New Jersey priest living in Stuart remained in the Martin County jail without bail Wednesday, awaiting extradition on charges of sexually assaulting a boy in Camden, N.J.

James Frances Hopkins, 60, was arrested Monday in his Stuart condominium and charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child.

New Jersey prosecutors charge Hopkins sexually assaulted a boy younger than 13 between May and October 1995.

"He is charged with some serious offenses in the state of New Jersey," said Capt. Mike Kanter, of the Camden County prosecutor's office. "He's going to be extradited back here to answer the criminal charges lodged against him."

Hopkins waived extradition proceedings Wednesday and agreed to return to Camden, a Martin County court official said.

The Diocese of Camden also issued a statement on the arrest.

"The family, the defendant and all victims remain in my prayers at this sad and difficult time, while the diocese remains committed to the protection of young people, to reporting accusations when they occur, to cooperating with law enforcement and to removing permanently from ministry anyone who would harm the young," the Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, bishop of Camden, said in the release.

Hopkins has lived in Stuart's Cedar Pointe Village since at least 2000. He worked as a cashier at a Palm City Walgreens.

An official with the Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach, which includes the entire Treasure Coast, said Hopkins was not affiliated with any churches in the diocese.

"He was just living in the area," said Deacon Sam J. Barbaro, a diocese spokesman. "He did not work in any of the churches in our diocese."

Barbaro said the Palm Beach diocese received word from religious officials in New Jersey about Hopkins, but he said he could not comment on the case. Barbaro also said he did not know whether the former priest belonged to any local churches.

The case against Hopkins began when he was removed from the priesthood and reported to the Camden prosecutor's office in 1995 after allegations of abuse involving the older brother of the alleged victim, said Andrew J. Walton, a spokesman for the Diocese of Camden.

The diocese was contacted again in 1999, this time with an abuse report involving the younger brother.

In previous published reports, a youth named Jonathan Norton said Hopkins began assaulting him when he was 8 years old. Norton has said publicly that his family accepted a settlement from the Camden diocese in 1999 in exchange for his silence.

"There was a settlement at that time in 2000 in the amount of $625,000," Walton said.

After learning of more cases, however, Norton said he wanted to come forward to help others.

The case is now in the hands of prosecutors, Walton said.

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