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Former Charleroi pastor sentenced on child porn charge

| Friday, April 25, 2014, 5:12 p.m.

A former priest in Charleroi on Friday continues to deny the abuse allegation that led to his departure from the Catholic Church but sought mercy from a federal judge on the child pornography charge that landed him in court.

When David Dzermejko, 65, of Braddock pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography in November, he admitted that he traveled to Thailand to have sex with teenage boys.

He told U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer that although he apologizes for those crimes, he denies molesting children under his care as a priest.

“I stand before you with deep remorse and a sincere regret for any crimes I have committed, and I throw myself on the mercy of the court,” he said.

Fischer sentenced Dzermejko to three years in prison and 12 years of probation. She ordered him to register as a sex offender until he is ordered to report to prison. He could have gotten 10 years in prison.

Michael Klein of Mason, Ohio, testified that his brother wrote in his journal and told his therapist that Dzermejko molested him when he was 12. Though his brother went on to marry and have children, the memory haunted him, he said. Klein said his brother “could never find inner peace” and committed suicide on April 9, 2009.

The Rev. Ron Lengwin said the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh investigated allegations made by Klein's family, the first it received against Dzermejko. The diocese determined that the claim was credible enough to put him on administrative leave in June 2009.

“He's never going to have a position with the church again,” Lengwin said.

Since the Klein family's allegation became public, two other people have come forward with similar allegations the diocese found credible, Lengwin said. Although all of the accusations were forwarded to police, none resulted in criminal charges because the incidents are alleged to have occurred long enough ago that the statute of limitations precludes them.

A federal grand jury indicted Dzermejko on the child porn possession charge in May.

Now that he has been sentenced, the diocese will prepare a case and send it to the Vatican, asking that he be removed from the priesthood, Lengwin said.

Dzermejko spent 18 years at Mary, Mother of the Church Parish in Charleroi, with the final 10 as its pastor. The alleged abuse involved another parish.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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