A law enforcement official familiar with the probe said the case was compromised in part because Schmalz was not in New Jersey when the sting took place.The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said authorities also were concerned because the operation had been conducted by a civilian.
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This could ruin someone’s life." Stephen Webster, one of those interviewed, was an 18-year-old seminarian at Seton Hall University when he met Riedlinger at a retreat in Long Branch four years ago.
Riedlinger, less than a year from ordination at the time, held himself out as a mentor, Webster said.
Though Riedlinger engaged in "highly destructive behavior," Bambrick said, there is no evidence the priest interacted inappropriately with a real minor, and he said he did not think Riedlinger was a danger because his ministry no longer involved children and because he was undergoing therapy. He said he feared the business would be harmed if his full name was disclosed.
"He committed a grievous sin, but what do we do with someone like that? All five men reached by the newspaper said they considered Riedlinger a risk.
"It was twisted." Webster said he repeatedly told Riedlinger to stop but that the behavior persisted for a year, until the teen cut off contact altogether. "It’s a disgrace." Once, Schmalz and his roommate thought they might be priests, too.