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|Priest won't face assault charges||April 9, 2009|
|Norman Miller 508-626-3823||Metrowest Daily News|
FRAMINGHAM -- A Framingham priest will not face assault charges after a judge yesterday ruled against an illegal immigrant opponent who said he was attacked by the clergyman.
Framingham District Court Judge Douglas Stoddart said the Rev. Joseph Pranzo will not be charged with assault and battery.
Joe Rizoli, a member of Concerned Citizens and Friends of Illegal Immigration Law Enforcement, had said Pranzo assaulted him at a forum on gangs at St. Tarcisius Church on Dec. 6.
Rizoli filed a criminal complaint against Pranzo in court, and a clerk magistrate ruled on Feb. 2 against charging Pranzo. Rizoli appealed the decision to a judge.
"We didn't want to bring Father Pranzo to court," said Jim Rizoli, who said he was speaking on behalf of his brother. "We wanted him to apologize. We wanted to meet with him and he wouldn't meet with us. This was the last straw. He attacked my brother Joe, and he's going to live with that.
"He lied. He's a liar, I don't care what anybody said."
Pranzo could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his lawyer, F. Beirne Lovely Jr., said the judge made the right decision.
"This was another effort to inappropriately pursue Father Pranzo for something he was not responsible for," Lovely said. "We're delighted the judge, in his wisdom, decided against it."
In a hearing in front of Stoddart on Tuesday, Joe Rizoli claimed he was acting in his capacity as a news photographer for he and his brother's cable access show, filming portions of the gang forum. At one point, while filming a woman who was asking a question, Rizoli said Pranzo came up behind him, hit his arm and tried to pull the camera away.
Jim Rizoli also testified Pranzo assaulted his brother. Another witness, Harold Wolfe, said Pranzo tried to rip the camera away from Rizoli.
Framingham Deputy Police Chief Ken Ferguson and Town Manager Julian Suso both testified they did not see an assault.
Although legally the case is over, Jim Rizoli said he and his brother will continue to focus on the Pranzo.
"We're going to protest him," Rizoli said. "We're going to take it to the next level. We'll protest him on TV and we're going to protest him whenever we can. That's the next step public outcry."
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