Jan 29, 2013 – Rev. Father Neil Doherty Child Abuse Trial: Catholic Priest Jailed For 15 Years In Florida
A retired priest convicted of molesting a young boy and accused of preying on dozens of others was sentenced Monday to 15 years in state prison.
Neil Doherty, 69, pleaded no contest earlier this month to criminal charges brought against him on behalf of one victim, a man who grew up across the street from St. Vincent’s Roman Catholic Church in Margate, where Doherty was the pastor. The man accused Doherty of drugging him and having sex with him.
As part of a plea negotiation, Doherty faced a maximum 15-year prison sentence, though he pleaded for leniency through his lawyer, David Bogenschutz, who argued that Doherty’s age and frail condition made him unlikely to offend again.
Broward Circuit Judge Kenneth Gillespie was unmoved, sentencing Doherty to the maximum allowable term. Before handing down his sentence, Gillespie heard from the victim’s lawyer, Jeff Herman, as well as two other men who said they were abused by the defendant while he was serving as a priest.
“Father Neil, as I knew him, told me he was going to help me, that his job was to show God’s love,” said one, a man now in his 40s who said Doherty abused him in 1984 and 1985. “What happened was he laced wine he gave me with drugs and when I awoke I was naked and had been sexually abused.”
The Rev. Chanel Jeanty, chancellor for canonical affairs for the
Archdiocese of Miami, told Gillespie that the church was aware of 34
complaints of sexual abuse at Doherty’s hands.
After the sentence was handed down, Archdiocese of Miami spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta issued a written statement Monday noting that Doherty was removed from active ministry in 2002, saying “justice was served.”
“We continue to pray for the healing of those whom he victimized as well as for all young people who have been abused by an adult in a position of trust. That a priest would give scandal in this way both angers and shames us,” the Archdiocese statement read in part.
“The Archdiocese of Miami has taken great steps to protect God’s children through its mandatory Safe Environment procedures which include national background checks, training for all employees, clergy and volunteers, and teaching our children how to be safe in today’s world.”
Doherty, a former priest at St. Vincent’s Catholic Church in Margate,
has been accused in several alleged incidents dating back to the early
1970s. Some of the accusations were too old to prosecute. He retired
from the Archdiocese of Miami in 2004.
Doherty will get credit for 842 days he has already served in the Broward Main Jail awaiting trial.
[By Rafael Olmeda Sun Sentinel]