Black Collar CrimesClergy Crimes

November 2000 – March 2001

A – L

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kansas



    RUSSELLVILLE – A minister and television host has been charged with murdering a rival gang member in a 1993 drive-by shooting in California.

    Pastor Geronimo Galvan Burgos, 29, was arrested after conducting a service at Iglesia de Cristo church, police said. He is accused of killing Christian Madre, 20, a member of the Lopers gang.

    Madre died and two other gang members were wounded by members of the Southside gang on Sept. 13, 1993, police said. Gang members opened fire as their rivals stood outside a house party.

    Burgos, host of a 30-minute religious television show, is employed by Final Call Ministries and moved to the state about 6 years ago, police said.

    Burgos waived extradition and was jailed pending his transfer to California.
    AP 2/16/2001



    LITTLE ROCK – A Fayetteville man whose pastoral and teaching careers took him around the state over the past 35 years was sentenced to prison for possessing child pornography – an addiction he said was rooted in childhood sexual abuse.

    Timothy Lee Reddin, 49, pleaded guilty Sept. 8 to possessing at least 10 illegal images, including one depiction of a child younger than 12. The images were found this spring by a co-worker who was cleaning out Reddin's office after he quit a job at the Arkansas Rice Depot.

    Reddin admitted in US District court that in 1998, he resigned as director of missions for the Central Baptist Association in Benton after two people there also found child pornography on a computer he used, and confronted him about it.

    He had earlier spent 16 years as a pastor in Hot Springs Village and taught high school for 3 years in Heber Springs and McCrory. But despite having jobs working with children and an admitted weakness for child pornography, he has never – and would never – actually molest a child, he said emphatically.

    Instead of departing from federal sentencing guidelines and placing Reddin on probation, thus allowing him to continue private counseling that he began on his own shortly after his arrest, the judge ordered Reddin to serve 27 months in prison. But the judge said he would recommend that Reddin spend his incarceration at a federal facility in North Carolina that strives to rehabilitate sex offenders.

    Reddin's attorney, Bobby McCallister of Benton, argued unsuccessfully that Reddin's deep feelings of remorse, diligent efforts to overcome his addiction and lack of criminal history would justify departing from the guidelines.

    Testifying on Reddin's behalf were his counselor, a friend who is also a pastor, his wife and the investigating FBI agent – all of whom said they believed Reddin to be sincere in his efforts to reform.

    The son of a preacher and the brother of two preachers, Reddin testified that he was sexually abused at age 10. He said he was repeatedly molested by an older boy who was a friend of his brother's, until Reddin's family moved away when he was 15.

    He said his conservative family values and his pride caused him to push the episodes to the back of his mind, pretending to himself that the abuse had never happened, until he began using the Internet. Reddin said that's when he discovered readily accessible pornographic images of children and adults and felt inexplicably compelled to explore them, to try to understand his own repressed feelings.

    He admitted exchanging e-mail with a teen-age boy in Pulaski County after the boy answered an ad Reddin had placed on a Web site aimed at homosexual teen-agers. But Reddin said he at first believed the e-mail was from an adult posing as a child.

    Reddin, who also has a young son, said he moved his family to Fayetteville in late Aug. to work toward earning a graduate degree that would allow him to teach college-level courses. He asked that his progress in that direction not be interrupted by prison, but Howard agreed with Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Newton, saying the prison program was the best place for Reddin.

    "I hope that along the way, you will see that the action is designed to help you face the problem and deal with it effectively," Howard told Reddin.
    Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 12/5/2000



    SAN DIEGO – An ex-Mira Mesa music pastor who admitted molesting a 14-year-old boy will stand trial on charges stemming from the crime after a judge allowed him to withdraw his guilty pleas.

    Superior Court Judge Roger Krauel allowed Richard Abram Elliott, 31, to change his pleas to not guilty after telling the defendant that he would have faced prison time under his earlier guilty pleas instead of probation.

    Krauel told Elliott that a "lot of information has developed" since the initial plea was given.

    The new information was contained in a presentencing report saying that Elliott is wanted in Colorado for a probation violation stemming from a botched federal murder-for-hire plot in which he pleaded guilty and did time.

    "He sold a gun to an undercover FBI agent to be used in the murder," the deputy district attorney said. No one was killed, and Elliott maintains that he was not involved, his defense attorney stated.

    Elliott also was convicted of marijuana-possession charges in Colorado, the prosecutor said.

    Elliott resigned as an associate music pastor at Community Bible Church after allegations arose that he molested the boy 3 times between May 1 and July 14 last year.

    The defendant had just completed a one-year, church-imposed probation following complaints by female parishioners about inappropriate sexual remarks that he made.

    Elliott surrendered to authorities Sept. 15 after a boy at the church complained to an official at his school.

    The judge remanded Elliott to custody and set bail at $100,000, subject to a further hearing. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for April 26. Elliott faces 8 years in prison if convicted.
    KGTV, 3/16/2001

    SACRAMENTO - A 15-year-old high school sophomore was raped and drowned in a canal by her stepfather, a prosecutor told a Superior Court jury.

    Leon Chauncey Cooper, 40, who was an ordained minister in his south Sacramento church, is on trial for the rape, kidnap and murder of LaRonda Johnson.

    If found guilty as charged, Cooper could face the death penalty.

    Johnson's body was found March 26, 1998, in a marshy field in southern Sacramento County. She had been raped and kidnapped from her Calvine Road home where Cooper had once lived with her mother, sister and brother, the prosecutor said.

    An autopsy showed the cause of death was drowning, but there were also finger marks on her throat, the prosecutor said. Defense attorneys for Cooper told jurors in their opening statements that the girl was unconscious and that after Cooper placed her body on the steep gravel embankment, it slid down into the water, where she drowned.

    Cooper thought he had killed the girl back in the Calvine Road home, he said.

    "You can't kidnap a dead body," the lawyer said.

    The defense hopes the jury will acquit Cooper of the rape and kidnapping charges to eliminate the special circumstances that would make him eligible for the death penalty.

    They don't dispute that Cooper drove the body and dumped it.

    The prosecution, however, claims that Cooper had no choice. Sawtelle said he attracted the attention of a nearby resident, who called police and reported Cooper's partial license plate number.

    After dumping the body, Cooper drove toward downtown Sacramento to turn himself in but ran out of gas and hitchhiked the rest of the way to the sheriff's office, where he surrendered to authorities.

    Cooper, who was convicted in 1996 of sexually molesting Johnson's 18-year-old sister, had a stormy relationship with the girls' mother, Covina McAlister, whom he married in 1998.

    McAlister testified that she met Cooper at her church, where he was an unpaid associate minister who also was ordained as an elder. After the 1996 molestation, McAlister kicked Cooper out of her home but said she later let him move back "to work things out."

    "LaRonda was my hairdresser. She would cook. We would sleep together. She was my daughter, but she was my friend," the mother testified.

    McAlister said she got into arguments with Cooper because he didn't have a steady job. She finally kicked him out again, but he would come around the townhouse to take a shower from time to time, she said. Once when she threatened to call his probation officer, McAlister said Cooper threatened her.
    Bee, 3/15/2001

    LOS ANGELES - A Van Nuys man has been charged with 9 felony counts of child molestation for allegedly abusing 3 children he met as a volunteer church youth choir assistant, police said. Ray Love, 35, also was charged with a count of possessing child pornography. Love has been a registered sex offender since a 1998 conviction for having child pornography, police said. Love was being held in lieu of $490,000 bail.

    A preliminary hearing was scheduled for March 22 in Van Nuys. In addition to working in the choir, police said, Love spent several years working with young people as a bandleader and a youth hockey coach in the LA area. Police said the victims were boys ages 12 through 16 when the crimes occurred.

    Love was arrested near his home after a church pastor brought to detectives a young man who allegedly was sexually abused by Love, police said. Detectives said they discovered pornographic images of minors printed off the Internet when they searched Love's home and an additional alleged victim came forward, an adult man who told police he was sexually abused by Love when he was 12.

    Capt. Charlie Beck of the LAPD's Juvenile Division said the man also knew Love through the choir. "All the alleged crimes took place in the suspect's home," Barraclough said. "It's not like he's an abductor. He gains their trust and becomes friends with the kids. Some of the kids didn't realize what was going on, what impact it would have on their lives or even that it was illegal." Beck said the youth groups were unaware that Love was a sex offender, and could not say whether the organizations had conducted background checks that might have revealed Love's status. He declined to identify the groups. Police think there may be additional victims, both male and female.
    Times, 3/15/2001

    SAN BERNARDINO - A priest who once served at two local parishes was sentenced to 3 years in state prison after admitting that he had repeatedly molested two brothers more than 20 years ago, when the victims were altar boys.

    Fr. Edward Ball, 62, is heading behind bars for the second time in 9 years after a conviction on child-molestation charges. In 1992, he pleaded guilty to fondling 3 other boys at Our Lady of Fatima and served 9 months. The charges for which Ball was sentenced stem from his time at Our Lady of Assumption in the late 1970s and 1980s. Ball pleaded no contest last year to 31 felony counts in exchange for a promise of a reduced prison sentence.

    "I have a great deal of sorrow and remorse for all the people I have hurt," Ball said before the prison sentence was imposed. After his release from prison, Ball will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He also now has two strikes on his criminal record, meaning another felony conviction would result in a mandatory life sentence.

    The victims, now grown men, were fondled and molested by Ball over a period of several years at the priest's home. The boys often were sent there, with their mother's permission, to help the priest with yard work and other chores. Each boy also traveled with Ball on vacations across the country, according to court testimony.

    "This man has stolen my childhood memories," said the younger brother, who is a married county sheriff's deputy. "The light sentence to be imposed today does not even come close to the life sentence I received more than 20 years ago."

    Ball, who has remained out of custody on bail since the charges were brought against him in 1999, stood nearby and listened as his victim spoke, occasionally wiping his face with his hands. The second victim, the elder brother, sent a letter to the court, which was read aloud during the sentencing hearing. The victim wrote how Ball had betrayed his family by gaining their trust, then molesting him and his younger brother.

    "You took and abused that privilege to the ultimate extreme," the victim wrote. The boys' mother, who admits she once loved and trusted Ball so much that she begged him to leave the priesthood so they could marry, lashed out at the priest during the hearing. "You are a soul murderer," she said. "You are a sick, twisted person to take advantage of children like this. How dare you call yourself a man of the cloth."
    Press-Enterprise, 3/10/2001

    OAKLAND – A deacon at an East Oakland church has been charged with molesting a 15-year-old Bible class student, and investigators suspect there might be additional victims, police said.

    Felony charges of sexual battery of a medically incapacitated victim and lewd acts with a child 14 or 15 by someone 10 years older were filed against Jeffrey Todd Fines, 39. Fines, who works for the federal government, was free on $40,000 bail and scheduled to appear in County Superior Court, possibly to enter a plea.

    The teen-ager was allegedly molested Oct. 24 at Fines' apartment after one of the evening Bible study classes, police said. Police said Fines had been teaching the class at the church for a year, and his students were boys and young men 4 to 19. After the class, Fines allegedly drove the boy to his apartment. Police said the boy was given a prescription pain medication that made him groggy and he lay down on Fines' bed. The boy told police he dozed off and awakened to find Fines in bed with him and fondling him. Fines then allegedly made the boy fondle him. Nothing else happened to the boy and he went home the next morning, police said.

    The boy's mother was reluctant to involve police and the alleged molestation was not reported to police until Nov. 30 by another family member. Because of the sensitivity of the allegations, the police investigation was lengthy. At one point Fines came to police headquarters and failed a voice stress analysis test that indicated his answers to questions about the allegations were deceptive. Police said Fines made some admissions about his involvement as well, but was not arrested at the time. They later served a search warrant at his home, and Fines was arrested Feb. 8.

    Fines is employed as a program analyst with the federal government in San Francisco.
    Connecticut Post, 2/15/2001

    SAN FRANCISCO – A priest was allowed to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor child molestation count stemming from an encounter last year with a 17-year-old boy

    Under the plea arrangement, Fr. Bernard J. Dabbene, 64, will be sentenced to 3 years probation along with a suspended jail sentence of up to one year. The priest served two days in lockup following his arrest and will not receive further jail time if he completes probation.

    Dabbene must complete 300 hours of community service, receive counseling and register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He was ordered to stay away from children.

    A priest of 34 years, Dabbene was spotted by police on Nov. 11 with a teenager in a parked car in an area frequented by drug dealers and prostitutes. Both were found with their pants unzipped and Dabbene's trousers fell down when police confronted him.

    The boy said he was running from a gang and sought help from the priest only to be fondled. The priest said they were merely discussing unspecified job opportunities.

    After the incident, Dabbene was placed on leave from his post as the archdiocese's liaison to 89 parishes in San Francisco, Marin and San Mateo counties.

    Dabbene originally faced two felony counts. He had been a pastor of Corpus Christi Church in the Outer Mission for six years until Abp. William Levada brought him into the archdiocese's central office in 1999.

    Levada has suspended Dabbene as vicar for pastoral ministries and ordered an investigation.
    Chronicle, 2/2/2001

    SANTA CLARA – A Menlo Park priest arrested at his Oakmont weekend home last Feb. pleaded guilty to charges of attempting to send sexually explicit information to minors on the Internet.

    Fr. Carl Anthony Schipper, 57, faces up to a year in county jail and 3 years probation after entering guilty pleas to 5 felony counts.

    He was sentenced to a 6-month jail term and 3 years probation. Schipper was a superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
    Press Democrat, 11/22/2000

    SANTA ROSA - Fr. Don Kimball, 56, a former youth minister, was ordered to stand trial on charges of sexual misconduct with two teen-age girls two decades ago.

    The judge ruled there was probable cause to believe Kimball raped a 14-year-old girl in 1977 in a chapel in a parish in Santa Rosa and also committed a lewd act with a 13-year-old girl in 1981 at a rectory in Healdsburg.

    The 3 felony counts involve 2 cases in which the prosecution could be revived by extending the statute of limitations. But in their complaint, prosecutors cited 9 others, who they say demonstrate Kimball's propensity for molestation.

    Kimball's attorney, Chris Andrian, said he will appeal the ruling, but if Kimball does stand trial, he would be the first of 5 North Coast priests accused of sexual misconduct since 1994 to stand trial.

    Gary Timmons, a former North Coast priest, was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading no contest before trial in 1996. He was released from prison in Oct. 2000.

    Kimball has denied the accusations against him and said the people making complaints against him were motivated by money. The church settled a suit for $1.6 million, which led to the criminal case.

    The decision came on the fifth day of a pretrial hearing that included testimony from two women and one man who say Kimball molested them in the 1970s and 1980s when they were teen-agers. Neil Brem, 36, one of those involved in the suit, testified that after a dream in 1995, he began to recall details of 4 different occasions when he was molested by Kimball, beginning when he was about 14 years old.

    In a lengthy cross-examination, Andrian tried to establish that there is a "bandwagon effect" that happened with the civil lawsuit and that the allegations of sexual abuse were suggested to Brem by a therapist, around the same time he had a dream involving Kimball.

    The hearing also featured testimony from the Bp. John Steinbock, the former bishop of Santa Rosa, who said that in 1987 Kimball admitted sexual misconduct with 6 young girls during the 1970s.

    Steinbock, now the bishop of Fresno, said he ordered Kimball to stop ministering and placed him on inactive status after another complaint surfaced three years later.

    Mary Agbayani, who testified Kimball raped her and later arranged an abortion, wept while the judge issued her order and said afterward, "It gave me a sense of moving forward and a sense of closure for a time in my life that was very dark."

    Agbayani, now 37, said her first thoughts included the relatives of victims who fought a political battle in Sacramento to extend the statute of limitations for some sex crimes, which allowed prosecutors to pursue charges against Kimball.

    "To me it's like a warning to anybody that if they commit any criminal act, it doesn't matter how long it may take for the victim to gain their voice and gain their strength," she said. "Eventually it will come back, and they will have to pay."

    Noting the testimony of Steinbock, which first surfaced in depositions in a civil case against Kimball and the church, some of the accusers and their families say the church didn't do enough to act on complaints against the priest.

    "The church closed its eyes and turned its back," said Ellen Brem, who said Kimball abused her in the church rectory. "They didn't pursue it at all. This isn't the first time."
    Kimball, has denied the charges against him.

    His attorney challenged testimony from witnesses who said they didn't remember Kimball's conduct until many years later.

    Andrian also questioned similarities in the testimony of Kimball's accusers and depositions taken for the civil lawsuit, which was settled for $1.6 million earlier this year.

    One of the accusers was among the four plaintiffs in the civil suit. Another testified at the pretrial hearing, and Santa Rosa police investigators outlined statements from the other two, plus several other people who claimed abuse by Kimball. Andrian asserted the similarities were due to collusion.

    "All of these people are in contact with each other and talked about this together," he said, adding they seemed to have "sudden recollections" about incidents with Kimball.
    Andrian said he does not believe Steinbock's testimony is relevant because it does not include information about the specific victims.

    Prosecutor Gary Medvigy said the important thing is that none of the recollections involves hypnosis or memory-enhancing techniques that the courts have frowned on.

    He said he has more alleged victims of Kimball's that could be added to the court case. "There are others that we may be using to come testify," he said.

    His final witness at the preliminary hearing was Santa Rosa police Officer Dave Knecht, who testified about seven other people who accused Kimball of sexual misconduct in the 1970s and 1980s when they were teen-agers in his youth ministry programs.

    Medvigy told the court that he believes Kimball, who remains free on his own recognizance, is a danger to the community, despite his lack of a criminal record and the age of the alleged incidents.

    He asked Gray to set bail, but she instead ordered a bail report and will consider the issue when he returns to court Nov. 29.

    There was also a brief discussion about possible punishment. Because the law was different in 1977 and 1981 when the offenses are alleged to have occurred, both sides were uncertain what penalty Kimball could face if convicted, but believe it is six to eight years in prison, Andrian said.
    Press-Democrat, 11/16/2000, 11/15



    WASHINGTON - A suburban mayor who gained prominence after his community imposed one of the nation's strictest smoking bans pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in Washington's National Cathedral.

    Alfred Muller, 58, longtime mayor of Friendship Heights, Md., and a volunteer usher at the cathedral for 35 years, encountered the teen-ager in a bathroom Jan. 28 and reached over and touched the teen-ager as they stood at adjacent urinals, prosecutors said. The boy, who was at the cathedral on a field trip, identified Muller from a photo in People Magazine, which carried a story about Friendship Heights' smoking ban.

    In exchange for Muller's admission to one count of sexual abuse of a minor and registering as a sex offender, prosecutors agreed not to oppose a sentence of probation on the retired physician and teacher at Georgetown University medical school.

    If the judge accepts the plea to a misdemeanor, the mayor might not serve any time in prison. The maximum penalty is 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

    The law, which banned smoking on city streets, sidewalks and all other city property in the community of 5,000 people, has since been repealed.
    AP, 3/21/2001



    NAPLES – Having lost two battles with prosecutors, Timothy Brody, 43, a former church leader accused of sexual misconduct with two boys, chose prison instead of going to trial.

    Brody, a former music director at St. John the Evangelist Church, pleaded no contest Monday to 39 felony charges stemming from his involvement in with two 15-year-old boys from the church. He had pleaded innocent to all charges against him.

    Brody entered the plea as part of a negotiated deal. The judge accepted the agreement and sentenced Brody to 30 years in state prison, with 15 of those suspended pending his successful completion of 15 years of sex offender probation after release.

    At the center of that case were 19 photos discovered by deputies at Brody's house. The photos allegedly show one of the male victims exposing his genitals and touching himself.

    Brody's lawyer fought to keep those photos from being used as evidence in a trial. When that failed, he asked the judge last week to dismiss all 38 charges that resulted from the photos, arguing they didn't show sexual conduct involving a minor so they weren't illegal to possess. That request was denied.

    The case was scheduled to go to trial and was pending assignment of a new court date. Brody was charged with using alcohol to lure a 15-year-old boy to his home in Feb. 1999, showing him pornographic movies and masturbating in front of him as the teen-ager fondled himself. Brody was also charged with exposing himself to a second teen-age boy from the church and taking photos of one of the boys posing with his genitals showing.

    Brody pleaded no contest to 18 counts of possession of child pornography, 18 counts of promoting sexual conduct by a child, two counts of committing a lewd act on a child and one count of lewd behavior in the presence of a child, all felonies. He also pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, for which he was sentenced to a year in jail to be served at the same time as his prison time. Prosecutors dropped one child pornography charge and one promoting sexual conduct by a child charge.

    His lawyer said Brody might appeal Blackwell's two pre-trial rulings about the photos.
    Daily News, 1/23/01



    ATLANTA - After a 7-year-old boy complained to his teacher in Feb. about welts on his back, state child welfare authorities were surprised to discover that the beating had taken place not at his home but at services in his church, a tiny nondenominational congregation called the House of Prayer.

    Welfare authorities said nearly 60 children had been seriously beaten by their parents and by church leaders, under the supervision of the Rev. Arthur Allen Jr., 68, the pastor. Several children had open wounds, large bruises and welts, investigators said. Allen and six church leaders were charged with cruelty to children and released on bail.

    An Atlanta juvenile court judge reluctantly decided not to release 41 children of church families from foster care. Judge Jones said the children could go home if their parents agreed to spank them only with their hands, and by themselves at home, and not to allow girls younger than 16 to marry.

    The parents refused.

    "We're going to raise our children according to the Bible," said one parent at the hearing, David Duncan.

    Judge Jones replied: "I regret that. I hate to see these children jeopardized by what I consider to be a cult."

    In the 3 weeks since state officials began removing the children from their parents, the case has transfixed the city and illuminated the distinctions that juvenile authorities must make between acceptable corporal punishment and child abuse.

    In hearings, police investigators told juvenile-court judges that the beatings were standard practice at the church, performed by parents and other adults with belts and switches under the supervision ofAllen. Police photographs showed three-inch-long welts on the children, and a 10-year-old boy had open wounds.

    Allen told the judge that parents had an absolute right to discipline their children, and that he advised members of his congregation on how severe the beating should be, based on the infraction, the child's age and degree of remorse.

    "When they administer a whipping, if I think a child is being struck too many times for what they have done, I will come and intervene, and tell them I feel that that's enough," Allen said. "It depends on what they have done."

    Children who did not express remorse should be punished more severely, he said.

    All of the church members are black, and Allen said: "If the white society doesn't want to whip their children, that's their business. I'm not trying to make you black, so don't try to make me white."

    Investigators also found that several 14-and 15-year-old girls had been ordered to marry after they became pregnant or began having sex. The weddings were often performed in Alabama, where girls may marry at 14.

    Allen confirmed the practice, saying it was better for young teenagers to be married than to become "whores." Officials said they were not sure whether the marriages were legal in Georgia, where people must be 16 to marry.

    Allen has preached his fierce and literal interpretation of the Bible's teachings at the small church for 35 years, and members - there are currently about 130 - say they rely on his advice for many major decisions. In 1993 he was jailed for 30 days after ordering a 16-year-old girl whipped with belts, a beating that he acknowledged may have lasted half an hour.

    Tanyaneeka Barnett, 25, a former church member, testified that teenage girls who had sex were frequently whipped during church services, after removal of their skirts or dresses.

    Allen angrily denied that sexual abuse had occurred. The church was simply trying to prevent the kind of social disorder that had led to school shootings and rampant teenage pregnancy, he said.

    "When the child is an adolescent, they are not able to think for themselves how to conduct themselves," he said. "So a parent has to be an authority. Someone with a more mature mind. You have to have rules."
    New York Times, AP 3/29/01



    NEWTON – Shocking a packed courtroom rippling with emotion, Harvey County District Judge Theodore Ice rejected a plea agreement and sentenced former priest Robert K. Larson, 71, to a much stiffer sentence for sex crimes committed against 4 of his former altar boys.

    Larson buried his face in his hands as Ice sentenced him to 3 to 10 years in prison for the felony crime of indecent liberties with a child and one year in jail for each of 3 counts of sexual battery, a misdemeanor.

    The county attorney had recommended a sentence of 90 days in the county jail and 5 years of probation for Larson, who pleaded guilty in Feb. But Ice said he just couldn't accept that.

    "There's no question but what pain that's been caused to the victims is still going on," Ice said in pronouncing sentence. "Frankly, I cannot overlook that."

    Larson is eligible for probation in 18 months, and the county attorney said he would likely serve the full 10 years only if he "starts acting out" in prison or is released and then molests another child. Larson's immunity from further prosecution stemming from any incidents that may have happened elsewhere in the state, part of the original plea agreement, remains in place.

    Close to two dozen young men have alleged they were molested by Larson over the years that he worked as a priest in south central Kansas, but the Harvey County prosecution is the only criminal case against Larson.

    Years after they were abused, the pain that victims and family members still endure was evident in their voices at the hearing, which lasted nearly 2 hours.

    "I feel like I have been given a life sentence," Rachel Rodriguez wrote in a statement read by the county attorney into the court record. "My days are long, my nights are restless and my pain never-ending."

    Rodriguez's son, Robert, was one of the four victims whose complaints formed the basis of the charges. Rodriguez said two other family members – her son, Gilbert, and her nephew, Paul Tafolla – were victims of Larson as well. Both men committed suicide.

    A story in The Wichita Eagle last August about Eric Patterson and other men who said they were abused by Larson as boys caught the eye of Paul Schwartz, Darren Razor and other men who had been altar boys for Larson at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newton in the mid-1980s. They went to police with allegations of abuse, and criminal charges were filed last November, and spoke out in court.

    Larson's lawyer, Dan Monnat, pleaded with Ice not to send Larson to prison. As a convicted child molester and a former priest, he said, Larson would be a prime target for other inmates.

    Ice said he would notify the Department of Corrections that Larson is vulnerable to abuse and that the warden should respond accordingly.

    Larson, who served in the Diocese of Wichita for 30 years, tried to control his sexual urges with prayer and self-control, Monnat said. But his drinking problem weakened his resolve and led him to abuse boys.

    "He was full of denial about his sexual orientation and about the urgings that he had," Monnat said.

    The treatment Larson received at Menninger Clinic in Topeka wasn't deep enough to identify and resolve his condition, Monnat said. It wasn't until Larson was removed from the diocese in 1988 and entered St. Luke's Institute in Maryland that he began receiving the treatment he needed – including the use of Depo-Provera.

    When it was his turn to speak, Larson turned to face his victims and their families.

    "I stand before you today a man full of shame and remorse for the wrong that I've done," he said.

    In his weakness, he violated the trust the children and their parents "had every right to expect from me," he said.

    He asked forgiveness, too, for "the shame I brought my profession" and the damage his actions brought to the Catholic Church. Four priests and at least one nun from the diocese, who separated themselves from the crowd while waiting for the hearing, were among those on hand to witness the sentencing.

    As Larson spoke, Schwartz's mother dissolved into tears and sagged against her husband's shoulder. Schwartz took turns looking at Larson and the floor as the former priest spoke, telling his victims they had done nothing wrong, had done nothing to deserve what happened to them.

    "That tore me up inside," Schwartz would say later, "but it made it all worth it."

    As the hearing was adjourned, Schwartz and Razor stood in the front row of the seating area, embraced each other and wept.

    In the hallway afterwards, between more hugs and more tears, the two men and their families talked about new beginnings. Schwartz just bought a house in the Kansas City area, and his wife is expecting their first child.

    Razor's journey home is much shorter – only a few blocks. "I can close this chapter," he said quietly, "and start a new one in my life."
    Wichita Eagle, 3/31/01, Reuters 3/6



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