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Priest Gets Probation for Child Sex Abuse

By Linnet Myers
Chicago Tribune
January 16, 1986

A former parish priest, now on leave from the Chicago Catholic archdiocese, was sentenced to four years' probation Wednesday for sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy.

"This is a very difficult type of case," Asst. State's Atty. Robert Cleary told Criminal Court Judge Lawrence Passarella.

"The key thing is the betrayal of the trust of a 14-year-old boy. They had a father-son type relationship. The defendant was a priest, he was a teacher."

Cleary asked Judge Passarella to sentence Robert Friese, formerly a parish priest on the North Side and in River Grove, to prison.

But defense attorney Ron Bredemann argued that Friese already had been through "pain and suffering as a result of going from a position of deep respect in the community at large, to one of scorn."

The judge approved a strict probation plan suggested by the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives. It requires Friese to live at the House of Affirmation, a residential treatment center for priests; to continue psychotherapy once he leaves the center; to do community service work at an Elmwood Park nursing home and at Recordings for the Blind; and to put 10 percent of any salary he makes into an account to pay for the victim's education.

Trial evidence showed that Friese, 33, of Inverness, began abusing the boy in October, 1982, when the boy was living in Maryville Academy, a home for troubled youths.

Friese was a counselor there, and the archdiocese has said that he will never again be a parish priest.

After his arrest in August, 1984, Friese admitted to police that he had sexually abused the boy on several occasions. But on the witness stand during the November trial, Friese said he had lied to police. The boy had told police of the abuse and Friese said thought he would help the youth if he told police that what the boy said was true, he testified.

On Wednesday, Friese again said that he signed the "false" confession as a "self-sacrifice" to help the boy. He compared himself to "someone who runs into a burning building" and "has no idea if they'll come out alive."

Judge Passarella called Friese's statement "very interesting" and said it showed that he still denied "the harm that has befallen the victim."

The judge also said the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services "is not without blame" for putting the youth in a vulnerable position that caused him to depend on someone who abused him. According to trial evidence, the victim had been constantly moved from home to home before he was sent to Maryville.

"How many different settings was he in--some 20 or more over a 14-year period? How can any human being get any idea of what family life is like, or what home life is like under those circumstances?" the judge asked.

Friese, who became a priest in 1978, was first a parish priest at St. Cyprian Catholic Church in River Grove and later was transfered to St. Juliana's on Chicago's North Side.

Cleary later said that the victim "has never been the same since all this. It pushed him over the edge. He was scared and depressed. How would you feel if the guy you looked up to did this to you?"

 
 

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