Former UP priest found guilty of child sexually abusive activity

Published: Oct. 3, 2023 at 9:32 AM EDT
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CHIPPEWA COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - A former U.P. priest was found guilty at a jury trial in Chippewa County District Court for child sexually abusive activity last Thursday.

49-year-old Aaron James Nowicki of Cheboygan was arrested and charged in 2021 during an undercover operation between the Genessee Human Oppression Strike Team (GHOST), the Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office, the Sault Ste. Marie Police Department, and Sault Tribe Police Department, and TRIDENT.

At the time of Nowicki’s arrest, he was a non-practicing catholic priest.

According to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Marquette, Nowicki resigned and was removed from ministry in 2019 because of allegations of serious, but not criminal, sexual misconduct with a vulnerable adult.

In a press release from the Chippewa County Prosecutor Robert Stratton, the specifics of the undercover operation were described. Officers were posing as a 15-year-old boy on the social media app Grindr. During the operation, several people, including Nowicki, were arrested when they arrived at a location for sexual intercourse with the undercover officer.

During the trial, Nowicki testified that he has been an active user of Grindr over the past 11 years, and has had sexual relations with several individuals whose profiles indicated that they were 18 years of age. When pressed, he admitted that he never asked any of them their actual age.

The jury determined that Nowicki failed to take reasonable precautions to determine whether the person he was meeting for sexual intercourse was 18 years of age or older.

A sentencing hearing for Nowicki is scheduled for December 12.

According to Prosecutor Stratton, “The protection of our children ultimately falls to the parents and community, though law enforcement will continue to do everything in their power as well. Parents need to be aware that these social media platforms exist as they pose a very real danger to teenagers who are looking to spread their wings, and may accidentally fall straight into the arms of a predator. The undercover operation revealed that our small community is not free of those would prey on children.”

Sault Ste. Marie Police Chief Wesley Bierling said, “The officers in this case did an exemplary job of locating child predators and removing them from our community. Too often, cases are referred to law enforcement after a child has become a victim and suffered traumatization. This type of inter-agency cooperation makes Chippewa County safer for everyone. I applaud all the agencies involved in this proactive operation for their hard work and dedication to the safety and security of our most valuable resource, our children.”