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MR HIP HOP HEAD
01-03-2008, 12:49 AM
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A Roman Catholic priest was arrested on perjury charges Wednesday, accused of lying about his relationship with a mobster in testimony to a grand jury investigating a casino owner's possible ties to organized crime.

The Rev. Joseph Sica, 52, was arrested outside his home in Scranton and taken to a court hearing in Harrisburg, where he was released on $20,000 unsecured bail. He is an adviser to Mount Airy Casino Resort owner Louis DeNaples, who is the subject of the grand jury investigation.

Sica declined to speak to reporters as he left the courthouse Wednesday.

Sica's arrest is the first to result from the Dauphin County grand jury probe, which is focused on whether DeNaples misled the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board when he said he had no connections to organized crime.

Sica, the chaplain at a Scranton hospital, was accused of lying to the grand jury last August about his relationship with the late Russell Bufalino, an organized crime boss who served long prison terms in the 1970s and '80s, according to grand jury findings cited in court papers.

The papers said Sica falsely told the grand jury that he had met Bufalino only by chance and had no relationship with him.

Prosecutors said the finding was based partly on a photograph that showed the priest arm-in-arm with Bufalino and another photo of him with William D'Elia of Hughestown, who reputedly heads the Bufalino crime family now.

Also, in a 1982 letter to Ginny Thornburgh, the wife of then-Gov. Dick Thornburgh, Sica referred to Bufalino as "his friend" and asked her to help free Bufalino, whom he called an innocent man, prosecutors said.

Dauphin County Judge Todd A. Hoover scheduled a preliminary hearing for Jan. 25. It was unclear whether Sica had a lawyer.

Bill Genello, a spokesman for the Diocese of Scranton, called the arrest a "deeply distressing development" and said the diocese had granted Sica's request for a leave of absence.

Sica, who lives at a church rectory, will not publicly celebrate Mass while he attends to his legal problems, Genello said in a statement.

DeNaples' spokesman, Kevin Feeley, said the man's family took in Sica as a child and essentially raised him. The two men have been friends for more than 40 years, he said.

That "does not change the fact that Louis DeNaples has no ties to organized crime," Feeley said.

Fran Chardo, a Dauphin County prosecutor, told the judge that Sica owns a handgun and had $1,000 in cash on him when he was arrested.

Sica is due back in court Jan. 25.
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