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Priest put on leave after being charged with stalking TV show host


Conan O'Brien, host of the NBC late-night talk show "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and a Massachusetts native, poses with children from St. Patrick School in Lawrence, Mass., in September 2006 after attending the dedication of a meal center for the poor. Father David Ajemian was suspended from ministry by the Boston Archdiocese following his Nov. 2 arrest in New York for allegedly stalking O'Brien. (CNS photo/Gregory L. Tracy, The Pilot)

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BOSTON (CNS) -- Father David Ajemian, a Boston Catholic priest arrested on charges of stalking late-night NBC talk-show host Conan O'Brien, has been put on leave by the Boston Archdiocese and "is no longer able to exercise public ministry."

The 46-year-old priest was arrested Nov. 2 in New York City while trying to enter a taping of "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," despite warnings by NBC security personnel he should stay away. He was arraigned on stalking and aggravated harassment charges and ordered held for psychiatric evaluation.

A judge ruled Nov. 9 that the priest was fit to stand trial based on the recommendation of a court-appointed psychologist. Father Ajemian's attorney agreed his client was fit for trial, but he told reporters the priest had been taking medications and has been treated for psychological problems for the past year.

According to court documents, Father Ajemian, who described himself in a letter to O'Brien as the "priest stalker," has allegedly been sending O'Brien threatening letters since last year and also wrote to the TV personality's parents.

In a Nov. 7 statement, the Boston Archdiocese said it has cooperated "fully with New York authorities on this matter" and will "offer pastoral support to all parties affected." It added that "out of respect to all parties involved, and in light of the pending legal proceedings, we decline further comment at this time."

O'Brien, who was raised a Catholic, is a native of the Boston area and has participated in fundraising activities for the Boston Archdiocese. He has not commented publicly on the case.

Father Ajemian attended St. John's Seminary in Brighton and was ordained in 2001. He was assigned to St. John the Baptist Church in Peabody from 2001 to 2003 and St. Patrick's Parish in Stoneham from 2003 until this June. Since then he has not been reassigned to a parish.

News reports said that in a recent letter to O'Brien the priest apparently expressed frustration that he had been denied a spot in the television audience after he had flown to New York "in the dimming hope that you might finally acknowledge me."

"Is this the way you treat your most dangerous fans?" he wrote. "You owe me big time, pal."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Father John Mark Hannon, who was Father Ajemian's mentor when he was in the seminary, said he "was a good seminarian. He was kind and generous and affable and concerned how people were."

According to the AP story, Father Hannon, pastor at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Hanson, said that if Father Ajemian received psychological help he could still be a good priest.

Father Ajemian, the son of former Time magazine journalist Robert Ajemian, attended Harvard University around the same time as O'Brien, but it is not clear if the two ever met one another.

After he graduated from college in 1983, Father Ajemian worked as a paralegal and also taught elementary school.

The priest could face up to a year in prison if convicted on charges of aggravated harassment and stalking.

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