Fr. David Poulson – Diocese of Erie

| Jan 8, 2019 | Abuser Profiles, Catholic Church

Father David Poulson
Diocese of Erie

Ordained: June 1979
Resignation: February 2018
Arrest and Conviction: October 2018

Assigned as follows:

  • 7/05/1979 – 6/09/1982: Faculty, Bradford Central Christian High School, Bradford, PA Weekend Education, St. Francis of Assisi, Bradford, PA
  • 6/09/1982-8/24/1997: Faculty, Gannon University
  • 6/01/1991 -8/24/1997: Director, Parochial Administrator Gannon University
  • 8/24/1997 -12/03/1997: Administrator, St. Francis of Assisi, Clearfield, PA
  • 12/03/1997- 6/06/2000: Pastor, St. Agnes, Morrisdale, PA
  • 6/06/2000 -7/24/2001: Special Ministries, Clarion University/Catholic Chaplain
  • 6/07/2000 -6/30/2006: Pastor, St. Michael, Fryburg, PA
  • 8/08/2000: Chaplain, Dio. Div. of World Apostolate of Fatima
  • 7/01/2006 -11/08/2010: Pastor, St Michael (2nd 6-year term), Fryburg, PA
  • 11/08/2010- 11/08/2016: Pastor, St. Anthony of Padua
  • 11/08/2010- 11/08/2016: Pastor, St. Bernadette, Cambridge Springs, PA
  • 1/13/2012 -9/11/2014: Dean, Meadville Deanery, Complete term of Father O’Hern
  • 11/01/2013 – 2/2018: Other, Bishop’s Delegate to Mass in the Extraordinary

Summary of Sexual Abuse Allegations against Father David Poulson:

The Grand Jury reviewed a January 26, 2018 memorandum that was provided to the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General by the Diocese of Erie. The memorandum recounted a telephone conversation that advised that a soldier had disclosed that he had been sexually abused by Poulson when he was a child.

During an interview with the Diocese of Erie, Poulson advised that “a friend of mine and I have property near Clarion” with a “little cabin.” Poulson’s friend and co-owner of the property is Mark Bettwy, who is presently employed as a sergeant with the Pennsylvania State Police.

Poulson estimated that he took 20 trips to the cabin and that approximately one-half of those trips were made in the company of minor boys. All of the trips with the boys required at least one overnight stay at the cabin. Poulson admitted that he was attracted to young men and had spent many hours, days and nights with several young men under the age of 18. He then provided the names of six children that he took to his cabin alone. Those names were provided to the OAG by counsel for the Diocese of Erie.

In February 2018, victim 1 was interviewed by OAG. The victim is presently 23-years old, was born in Wisconsin and his family moved to Pennsylvania when he was 7 or 8 years of age. Upon arrival in Pennsylvania, the Catholic Church played a major role in his family’s life because they were new to the area.

The victim related that his parents believed that the local priest, a young man in his late
20s, Poulson, would be a good role model for their children. The victim became very close with Poulson and viewed him as a friend who would take him places, buy him things, and go camping with him.

Poulson began to sexually molest the victim when he was approximately 8 years old. The abuse continued until he was 16. The abuse involved Poulson kissing the victim’s lips, kissing his neck, and sucking on his earlobes.

Poulson also fondled the victim’s genitals and penis, to include masturbation. The victim reported that on several occasions, he was made to reciprocate this behavior on Poulson. The abuse occurred on a biweekly basis from 2002 to 2010. Poulson made the victim go to confession and confess the sexual abuse to Poulson in his capacity as a priest.

The victim stated that his parents encouraged him to spend time with Poulson at the church
rectory and at Poulson’s camp. He revealed that he was sexually assaulted by Poulson at the
rectories at St. Michael’s in Fryberg and at St. Anthony’s in Cambridge Springs. The abuse at the rectories usually occurred on Sundays, after the victim served as an altar boy at mass.

Poulson Continues the Abuse at His Remote Cabin

When asked to estimate the number of times that he was assaulted at the rectories, the victim stated that it occurred in excess of 20 occasions. With respect to Poulson’s camp, the victim advised that he was assaulted at that location between five and 10 times. He described this
hunting camp as being in a very remote location in either Clarion or Jefferson County and that it
took approximately 10 minutes to reach it after turning off the road.

According to the victim, the cabin was a small, one-room, one-floor structure that was approximately 16 feet long by 8 feet wide. It was made of rough cut pine and had no heat, electricity or water.

The victim advised that when he was taken to the camp, he was always alone with Poulson. There was no bed there, so Poulson would bring one air mattress for the two of them to

The victim believes that the last time that he went to the camp and was sexually abused by Poulson was in the summer of 2010. He was 16-years-old at the time. Shortly afterward, he left Pennsylvania and has not had any contact with Poulson since 2013.

The Grand Jury heard testimony from Bettwy who confirmed that he shared ownership of the property with Poulson. Bettwy stated that he was aware that Poulson frequented the camp with young boys and recounted a statement that Poulson had made when they purchased the property. Specifically, Poulson indicated his desire to see property ownership relinquished to the Bettwy family in the event that Poulson was ever accused of molesting altar boys.

Another Victim of Father David Poulson Comes Forward

The Grand Jury heard testimony from a second victim who revealed that he had contact with Poulson between 2003 and 2006 when he was 15 to 18 years of age. On several occasions over the course of those years, he went with Poulson alone to his hunting camp. He knew that Poulson co-owned the property with a policeman whom the victim met while he was at the camp on an altar server retreat. The policeman was not wearing a uniform at that time, however.

The second victim disclosed that while they were at the camp, Poulson put his hand under the victim’s shirt and rubbed his stomach and chest. During this same incident, Poulson slid his hand down the victim’s pants, underneath his underwear, and towards his genitals. The victim was able to roll away and thus avoid further abuse. He stated that he froze when it was happening to him and worried that Poulson would be mad or offended if he stopped him.

Other Individuals Testify Against Father Poulson

Nine other individuals who had contact with Poulson at the time when they were minors. The men described how Poulson would flirt and “wrestle” with them. One witness testified that he “joked” with Poulson about his sexual preference for little boys. Those who had visited the cabin explained that Poulson would bring a laptop computer and watch DVDs while they were there. They all noted that Poulson was neither an outdoorsman nor a hunter.

One witness testified that in early 1979, he was a student at Bradford Central Christian High School. At that time, Poulson had just started working as a teacher and soon became a trusted friend to him. Poulson took the witness to local chess matches and mentored him spiritually.

However, the chess matches then turned into dinners. The dinners soon included dinner with alcohol. Poulson then began showering the witness with gifts and cash. The witness told the Grand Jury that Poulson liked to poke and tickle him, This activity then developed into rough-housing which, in turn, developed into wrestling. He added that Poulson would often grab
him from behind to engage in horseplay. This activity occurred in either the rectory or the church. On at least one occasion, the witness recalled that Poulson had an erection while they
were “wrestling.”

A subpoena to the Diocese of Erie revealed a confidential memorandum from 2010. In the memorandum, Bishop Donald Trautman noted that complaints had been received regarding Paulson’s contact with minors.

The memorandum revealed that during a recorded interview, Poulson admitted that his text messages with male minors were “suggestive to sexual advances.” He also admitted to
Trautman that during the course of tutoring a minor, he shared a book with the boy and was
“aroused.” He then admitted to hugging the boy. Trautman’s memorandum indicated that he
“admonished” Poulson and told him to “cease and desist” such behavior. He further noted that spending time alone with a minor was a violation of Diocesan policy. Poulson continued in active ministry within the Diocese of Erie until his resignation on February 12, 2018.

Justice for Abuse Victims of Father Poulson

According to NBC News, Poulson was charged with indecent assault, endangering the welfare of children and corruption of minors — and three of the charges are felonies. He has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two boys over the course of many years.

In January 2019, Poulson was sentenced to at least 30 months and up to 14 years in prison.  According to the Diocese of Erie, Poulson has agreed to seek laicization (removal from the priesthood) as part of his plea deal.

In March 2019, the Diocese of Erie announced that Poulson has been formally removed from the priesthood (laicized) and is no longer allowed to function as a priest.

Contact us today.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Erie. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in Pennsylvania, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Erie now have legal options to recover damages due to a compensation fund created for victims. Contact us at (954) 641-2100 or [email protected] today.