A New Jersey priest who is a die-hard New York Giants fan heads to court on Tuesday, accused of pointing a musket at an 8-year-old boy who wore a rival football team's jersey into the rectory.
Father Kevin Carter's arrest last week was the result of a parishioner misunderstanding a joke between the boy, who wore a Dallas Cowboys jersey, and the priest at St. Margaret of Cortona Roman Catholic Church in Little Ferry, New Jersey, Carter's attorney Harold Cassidy said.
He said the priest planned to plead not guilty.
Carter, 54, was showing a replica musket to a fellow Civil War buff, Richard Fritzky, before Sunday mass on Sept. 13 when the child wearing the jersey walked into the rectory with his parents, said the defense lawyer.
"They are coming in to elicit a response from Father, good naturedly, and he played along," Cassidy said in a telephone interview.
Pretending to be horrified at seeing the Cowboys jersey, Carter "raised the gun" and the group burst into laughter, Cassidy said.
"There are different people saying, 'It was pointed,' 'It wasn't pointed.' The boy was never in fear," Cassidy said.
The priest noted the jersey during mass, eliciting more laughter, and after the service "there was a warm exchange between Father and the boy."
Twelve days later, a parishioner reported the incident to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, which notified the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, the prosecutor's office said.
Authorities seized the "functioning Civil War style musket" as well as gun powder, ammunition and other items, the prosecutor said.
"It's one of those muskets where you have to pack powder into it with a rod, and then load and shoot it," Cassidy said. "It was never loaded and never fired. It was the equivalent of a toy."
Carter was arrested and charged with fourth-degree aggravated assault by pointing a firearm and third-degree endangering the welfare of a child. He was freed on $15,000 bail.
If convicted, Carter would face a maximum of five years in prison for endangerment and up to 18 months behind bars for assault, said Maureen Parenta, spokeswoman for the Bergen County prosecutor.
Carter continues to conduct mass as usual, Cassidy said.