Priest Faces Sex Charges

Galveston Daily News
August 21, 1985

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A Roman Catholic priest accused of having sex with boys pleaded no contest to eight counts, and prosecutors said Tuesday they want the priest to go to jail.

The Rev. P. Henry Leech, one of three Catholic priests in Rhode Island accused in the last year of sexual assaults against boys, pleaded no contest Monday to three counts of second-degree sexual assault, two counts of third-degree sexual assault, two counts of sodomy and one count of assault and battery.

"Our office is recommending jail for Father Leech," said Suda Prohaska, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Arlene Violet. Prohaska and Violet are former nuns.

The state, however , is not recommending a specific term for Leech, who is to be sentenced Oct. 7, Prohaska said.

Leech, an assistant pastor at St. Jude's parish in Lincoln when he was charged in October, could get a maximum 95 years in prison on the sexual-assault charges, according to Prohaska.

The whereabouts of Leech, who remains free on personal recognizance, could not be determined. His attorney, David L. Martin, declined to comment.

According to the Rev. Salvatore R. Matano, vicar for administration and co-chancellor of the Diocese of Providence, Leech has been on an official leave of absence for nearly a year. The diocese will take no further action while the case remains in the courts, Matano said.

Leech, a Pawtucket native, was charged with having sexual rela- tions with four teen-age boys between November 1982 and April, 1984 at St. Jude's rectory, St. Joseph’s rectory in . Woonsocket, and at an unspecified location in Smilhfield.

All four of the youths were described by police as church volunteers.

Two similar cases involving Roman Catholic priests in Rhode Island are pending.

The Rev. Armand V. Ventry, 53, paslor of Our Lady of Good Help Church in Burrillville since 1980, was indicted last month on charges that he sexually abused three boys between 1981 and 1984.

The Rev. Willlam O'Connell, 62, formerly of St. Mary's Church in Bristol, faces more than two dozen sexual-assault charges involving boys aged 13 and 15.


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