LITTLE FERRY, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey priest accused of pointing a functioning but unloaded musket at an 8-year-old boy in a church’s rectory will plead not guilty, his lawyer said, explaining it as a joke spurred by a football rivalry.
The Rev. Kevin Carter is to be arraigned Tuesday on charges of child endangerment and aggravated assault by pointing a firearm, lawyer Harold Cassidy told The Record.
Bergen County prosecutors charged Carter on Friday; he is free on $15,000 cash bail. Both charges stem from a Sept. 13 incident at St. Margaret of Cortona Roman Catholic Church in Little Ferry.
Authorities have said the incident apparently was spurred by a football rivalry, although Carter maintains it was a joke. A parishioner reported it to the Archdiocese of Newark late last month, and officials there soon notified the prosecutor’s office.
“There is no question that this was an innocent banter between a Cowboy fan and the family of the boy and the Father, who is a Giants fan,” Cassidy said. “So when somebody saw the young fellow with the Cowboy jersey, they thought it was a great opportunity to rib Father about the game that day, between the Cowboys and the Giants. So the family initiated the discussion and sought to initiate an exchange, a good-natured ribbing, between the two of them. . It’s incorrect to think the child was in fear. He was not.”
Carter, an avid New York Giants fan, and the boy, who roots for the Dallas Cowboys, were talking about football shortly before the incident. The two NFL teams were scheduled to play that night.
County Prosecutor John Molinelli said Carter allegedly asked the boy, who wore a Cowboys jersey to the service, to step into one of the rectory’s rooms and stand against a wall. When the boy did, the priest allegedly pointed the musket at him.
At Masses on Sunday, parishioners voiced support for Carter and applauded when he began the services by reading a statement maintaining his innocence, the newspaper reported.
Carter told his congregation that the charges reflect misinterpreted “jesting” between him and the boy, and a man who claimed to witness the incident told the newspaper that everyone involved — including the boy — were laughing.
Molinelli has said he doesn’t consider pointing a gun at someone a joke, especially not at little kids.