A Roman Catholic priest from Milford was sentenced today to 18 years in prison for sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy in his parish 14 years ago.
Rev. John M. Banko, 62, is already serving a 15-year sentence for abusing an 11-year-old altar boy at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Milford between 1993 and 1994. He declined to speak during today's hearing before Superior Court Judge Roger F. Mahon in Flemington.
"I'm just not up to it today," he told the judge.
Banko was convicted in May of sexually assaulting his second victim between 1994 and 1995 in a locked bathroom at the church.
The victim and his parents addressed the court this morning, saying the harm Banko inflicted has been immeasurable and devastating.
"What happened to my son is inexcusable," the victim's father told the court. "The pain he's endured ... words cannot describe it."
The victim's mother said she watched her son spiral rapidly into a "depressed, isolated young man" who painted everything black and became addicted to prescription drugs.
When she finally learned he had been abused, she was shocked to learn it was "the one person in this world I should have been able to trust: his priest."
Banko denies abusing either victim.
A report by Banko's doctor at the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center, New Jersey's prison for sex offenders in the Avenel section of Woodbridge Township, found Banko to exhibit a pattern of compulsive criminal sexual behavior but said he continues to deny the attacks, Hunterdon County Assistant Prosecutor Dawn Solari told the judge.
"The defendant continues to be in denial," Solari said. "Five years of therapy and he still denies he's done anything wrong."
Mahon sentenced Banko to 18 years for first-degree aggravated sexual assault. He is eligible for parole after seven years.
A second sentence of eight years, three years without parole, for a second-degree charge of child endangerment, will be served concurrently.
Banko remains a priest but is prohibited from serving Mass or performing other religious duties.
Following his second conviction in May, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Metuchen, said church officials were still considering whether Banko should be allowed to remain a priest.
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