Probation awaits the Rev. James Michael Taylor after he admitted child endangerment — a charge stemming from sexual contact he had with a 15-year-old girl while serving as a youth minister at Corpus Christi Church in Clifton Park.
Taylor, 30, pleaded guilty to the one misdemeanor count in Clifton Park Wednesday afternoon with the understanding that he won’t face any jail time. Instead, he will have a five-year order of protection placed on him that will prevent him from having any contact with the girl.
Taylor, who was suspended by the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese after being charged in April, did not make any statement following the plea and will face sentencing Oct. 8. Defense attorney Daniel Stewart said his client admitted to the count in part to prevent the girl from having to testify.
“The purpose [of this plea] obviously is to accept responsibility for his conduct, to minimize the impact on the victim and to move on with his life,” Stewart said after the proceedings.
Saratoga County District Attorney James Murphy III said Taylor will get credit for two days served in jail after his arrest and have to pay a $1,000 fine imposed by the court. He said the girl and her family were satisfied with the resolution.
“By refusing to plea bargain or reduce the charge, he admitted that his conduct endangered the child’s welfare,” Murphy said.
Now, the man who was serving as the parochial vicar at Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Niskayuna before his arrest will need to defend his conduct to the diocese. He remains on administrative leave from all priestly duties pending a review by the Sexual Misconduct Review Board of the diocese — a panel consisting of lay people with experience in law enforcement, psychology and human services.
“As a church, our first and most solemn responsibility is to ensure the safety of children,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger said in a news release. “As is our policy, the Albany Diocese will await the conclusion of the civil legal proceedings before conducting our own review of the matter.”
While on administrative leave, Taylor is not permitted to publicly present himself as a priest, celebrate the sacraments or wear clerical garb. Scharfenberger said the diocese has a “zero-tolerance policy” for the sexual abuse of children by clerics and any substantiated allegation results in permanent removal from the ministry.
Court documents indicate Taylor, while in a position of authority as a Catholic priest, subjected the girl to sexual contact. He also exchanged “inappropriate text messages, pictures and phone calls,” sheriff’s Investigator Courtney Salaway wrote in a complaint filed in Clifton Park Town Court in April.
The endangering charge is punishable by up to a year in jail.
Authorities were alerted to Taylor’s conduct after the girl’s family notified the church. Authorities initially suggested Taylor’s conduct could extend to other girls and were asking for anyone with additional information to step forward, but a further probe determined Taylor only had inappropriate contact with one girl.
A graduate of the University of Georgia, Taylor served as a captain in the U.S. Army at the time he became a priest. He also studied theology at Siena College and Mundelein Seminary at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Chicago.
Stewart said the resolution in the case is good for both Taylor and the girl. He said his client didn’t want to subject her to the ordeal of testifying in court.
“You’re dealing here with a young child,” he said. “The prospect of her having to testify is not something myself or my client would want.”