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Ex-Priest Is Given 15 Years in Prison
Long sentence in porn case for admitted abuser

By Amy E. Nevala
Chicago Tribune
January 31, 2003

A former Roman Catholic priest from Chicago accused of molesting as many as 14 boys one to two decades ago was sentenced Thursday to 15 years in prison for child pornography convictions.

Vincent McCaffrey, 50, stared straight ahead as U.S. District Judge John W. Darrah handed down the maximum sentence for possession of child pornography.

"He took from these children maybe a child's most precious attribute, innocence," Darrah said as he pronounced the sentence.

Several alleged victims of McCaffrey's abuse, now grown men, shook their heads as the sentence was announced, having stated earlier that McCaffrey deserved to be imprisoned for life.

"I've just been sitting here thinking the sentence I've received and the other victims received is lifelong," said a witness identified in court only as Kevin. "He should have the same."

"People say you have a disorder, a mental imbalance, but I can't believe that," said another alleged victim, Bruce, when asked if he had anything to say to McCaffrey. "You went into the priesthood, you made those promises, and then you abused your authority."

Assistant U.S. Atty. T. Markus Funk had asked for a sentence of 30 years to life, but Darrah said that the maximum sentence was 15 years under the statute in which McCaffrey pleaded guilty.

McCaffrey received 15 years for possession of child pornography and another 5 years for receipt of child pornography, sentences that will be served concurrently.

After court Thursday, Funk filed an emergency motion requesting the judge to run the sentences consecutively, for a total of 20 years. A hearing is expected to be held Tuesday.

McCaffrey's attorney, Thomas Royce, said the sentence was harsh and should have been reduced because McCaffrey cooperated with authorities during the investigation. He said that McCaffrey suffers from a disorder that he has attempted to overcome for years through multiple sessions with therapists and months in sexual-addiction treatment centers.

"He said to me, 'Do you think I really wanted to do this? It was something that controlled me inside,'" Royce said. He plans to appeal and added that he fears that McCaffrey's admission and cooperation with authorities will have "a chilling effect" on investigations of other individuals found in possession of child pornography.

McCaffrey was never charged in the molestation cases, but under federal sentencing laws, prosecutors can bring out related criminal conduct. Funk said the testimony of the witnesses on Thursday and in court in December contributed to McCaffrey's harsh sentence.

In 2000, U.S. Customs authorities received a tip from a source in New Zealand about McCaffrey's involvement with online child pornography, according to government officials. Investigators found thousands of sexually explicit images stored on McCaffrey's home computer, including photos of children as young as 3 years old, officials said.

Darrah said he invoked the maximum sentence after the alleged victims testified that they were physically threatened and mentally tormented, allegations McCaffrey denied.

"Mr. McCaffrey's conduct is a continuing attempt to use people around him for his own ends," Darrah said.

In December, McCaffrey admitted molesting at least 12 to 14 boys during his years as a priest at four different Chicago-area parishes. Testimony revealed that the Chicago archdiocese learned of McCaffrey's sexual misconduct as early as 1980 but returned him to parish duties after he had undergone in-patient treatment.

He was removed from parish duties in 1991 due to reforms instituted by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and he left the priesthood in 1993.

 
 

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