Priest Faces Allegations of Sexual Abuse from 1980s

In a shocking turn of events, a Port Charlotte priest, Leo P. Riley, 68, was arrested Wednesday on multiple counts of capital sexual battery. The allegations against him are connected to his previous tenure as a priest in Dubuque, Iowa, from 1984 to 1986. The arrest resulted from a joint effort between the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) detectives and Dubuque, Iowa, police.

5 Key Points

  • Leo P. Riley, a 68-year-old Port Charlotte priest, was arrested on multiple counts of capital sexual battery.
  • The allegations are connected to his previous tenure as a priest in Dubuque, Iowa, from 1984 to 1986.
  • Four people reported being sexually abused by Father Riley when they were grade school-aged altar boys at Resurrection Parish.
  • The Diocese of Venice learned of the allegations in May 2023 and immediately placed Riley on administrative leave.
  • Riley has bonded out of jail, and his attorney states that he denies any wrongdoing.

According to the Dubuque Police Department, four individuals came forward, reporting that they were sexually abused by Father Riley from 1984 to 1986 while he was serving as the associate pastor of Resurrection Parish in Dubuque. The victims were identified as grade school-aged boys who were altar boys at the parish during that time.

The Diocese of Venice stated that they were made aware of the sexual misconduct allegations against Riley in May 2023. Upon learning of the accusations, the diocese immediately placed him on administrative leave. Riley was last assigned to San Antonio Catholic Church in Port Charlotte during his arrest.

Clergy Sexual Abuse Allegations Shock Parishioners

The news of Father Riley’s arrest shocked some parishioners at San Antonio Catholic Church. “When we first were told about it, I couldn’t believe it,” said Geraldine Oswald, a parishioner. “I didn’t know him when he was in Iowa, but when he was here, I just enjoyed him very much.”

Dubuque police arrested Riley on five counts of capital sexual battery within their jurisdiction. Capital sexual battery is defined as an adult over 18 years old sexually battering a child under 12 years old.

Father Riley’s history as a priest includes serving at Resurrection Church in Dubuque, Iowa, and, during the early 2000s, he served at Saint Charles Borromeo in Port Charlotte, St. Peter the Apostle in Naples, and Sacred Heart in Punta Gorda.

Giacomo Thompson, a member of Saint Charles Borromeo for a year who has met Father Riley once, expressed support for the police investigation. “Our faith is in Jesus Christ, who founded Catholic Christian Church,” Thompson said. “We fully support the police in pursuing their investigation and trial to the full extent of the law. We don’t know any other Catholics that aren’t in agreement with this same position.”

Priest Denies Wrongdoing, Bonded Out of Jail

CCSO arrested Riley at home and took him to the Charlotte County Jail overnight. As of Friday night, Riley has bonded out of jail, according to CCSO.

NBC2 spoke with Riley’s attorney, who said, “Father Leo Riley has dedicated his life to the Catholic church. He has multiple decades of exemplary and honorable service as a catholic priest. He is baffled by these forty-year-old allegations and vigorously denies any wrongdoing.”

The case remains under investigation as the authorities continue to gather evidence and information related to the alleged clergy sexual abuse.