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SALT LAKE CITY — A Catholic priest in Salt Lake City has been placed on leave after he was charged in connection with a prostitution sting.
The Rev. Andrzej Pawel Skrzypiec, 62, pastor of the Saint Ambrose Catholic Church, was charged Sept. 24 with patronizing a prostitute, a class A misdemeanor.
His attorney, Clayton Simms, said Monday that his client, who is also the pastoral administrator at J.E. Cosgriff Memorial Catholic School, is innocent and the charge "stems from a misunderstanding of events."
Originally from Poland, Rev. Skrzypiec has led the St. Ambrose parish, 2315 Redondo Ave., since 2009. The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City in a statement said he has been placed on a three-month administrative leave "until this matter is resolved."
Rev. Skrzypiec is charged with driving around a parking lot at 200 North and 900 West in Salt Lake City several times on Aug. 24 before accusing an officer who was posing as a prostitute there "of being a cop," according to a charging documents. After the officer said she wasn't and asked if he was looking for a date, he agreed to pay her $30 for a sex act, the charges state.
Police say she directed him to meet her at a nearby motel, but a different Salt Lake police officer officer pulled him over and arrested him.
Skrzypiec denied making a sex deal and "claimed he was in the area to get tacos from a taco stand," according to the charges.
Rev. Skrzypiec has denied the allegations from the beginning, according to a weekend pulpit announcement. The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City provided the statement in response to a request for comment Monday.
"We ask that you keep Fr. Andrew in your prayers," it says.
The pastor was placed on leave from ministerial duties earlier on, when the incident was reported to the diocese, according to the statement. After he was charged last week, the three months of administrative leave began. The announcement did not provide specific dates and a diocese spokeswoman declined to give a timeline.
Father Joshua Santos is filling in as a temporary administrator of the parish and as chaplain of the Cosgriff school, 2335 Redondo Ave. in Salt Lake City.