New Jersey priest pleads not guilty in musket case

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Father Kevin Carter, 54, of St. Margaret of Cortona Roman Catholic Church, Little Ferry, New Jersey. (Bergen County Prosecutor's Office photo)

A priest in New Jersey faced a judge Tuesday on charges that he allegedly pulled a gun on a child at his church. The pastor says he was just joking around, but the boy's parents and prosecutors aren't laughing.

Fr. Kevin Carter is a priest at St. Margaret of Cortona Church in Little Ferry. He pleaded not guilty during an arraignment Tuesday. Father Carter, a Roman Catholic priest, has been charged with aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a child for pointing an unloaded Civil War-style musket at an 8-year old boy at the church rectory on September 13. The pastor said he was joking with the kid because they are fans of rival football teams.

"I believe I will be vindicated of these charges and that my reputation will not be harmed by the people who know me," he said. "I'll be okay. My concern is for my young parishioner."

Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said that investigators confirmed that as Carter raised the weapon and pointed it at the boy, he said: "I'm going to shoot you." Molinelli said that what Carter did was not a joke but a crime. Molinelli said that the musket was unloaded but fully operable and that investigators found gun powder and ammunition nearby.

The Newark Archdiocese reported the incident two weeks later after a parishioner who was in the rectory at the time of the incident came forward.

Father Carter has been a priest more than 30 years. In that time, he has been a chaplain for the Little Ferry and Jersey City police departments. A number of law enforcement officers showed up at his arraignment to show support.