Former East Windsor priest pleads guilty to giving gun, ammunition to a 17-year-old

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EAST WINDSOR–A former Catholic priest who has previously pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a minor charges pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to helping a minor get a gun.

Paul Gotta, 58, was a Catholic priest at the time of the crime at the St. Philip and St. Catherine churches in East Windsor.

In November 2012 Gotta helped a 17-year-old buy thousands of rounds of handgun ammunition. Then, on two occasions in December 2012, Gotta bought two pounds of explosives powder at Riverview Gun Sales in East Windsor and gave it to that same child.

In June 2013, Gotta informed police that he was concerned about comments from the teen that he was planning to pull a prank at his graduation from the Metropolitan Learning Center in Bloomfield.

The teen, Kyle Bass, of East Windsor, was later charged with criminal attempt to manufacture bombs, illegal possession of explosives, possession of a silencer, possession of fireworks and breach of peace. A search of Bass’ home found two shotguns, three rifles, ammunition, pipes, silencers made of soda bottles, a shotgun made of steel pipes, fireworks and chemicals, the arrest warrant against him states.

The warrant also stated that Bass said he and Gotta had discussed making a shotgun, which he tested in the backyard in the presence of the priest.

Gotta was arrested for the gun and ammunition charges on July 19, 2013, and was officially indicted on six charges on January 30, 2014: unlawful transport of firearm in interstate commerce, aiding and abetting possession of a handgun by a juvenile, aiding and abetting the possession of ammunition by a juvenile, distribution of explosive material to an individual under the age of 21, aiding and abetting the attempted manufacture of a pipe bomb and obstruction of justice.

On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to the fourth charge, distribution of explosive material to an individual under the age of 21.

Gotta remains out on bond since his arrest and will be sentenced on May 19. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.

Previously, Gotta pleaded guilty to second-degree breach of peace in November 2015 as part of a plea deal. The initial charges for that case, which was about the sexual assault of a 16-year-old boy from January 2012 to February 2013, were second- and fourth-degree sexual assault. For that case he pleaded under the Alfred Doctrine, meaning he knew there was enough evidence to convict him but he didn’t agree with the charges.

For that case he was sentenced to a suspended six-month sentence and two years of conditional discharge, which he is still serving.