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  Molestation Victim Forgives Ex-Priest

By David Sommer
Tampa Tribune (Florida)
May 6, 2004

CLEARWATER — A former Catholic priest who molested two Tarpon Springs brothers asked for forgiveness Wednesday and was told he already had it.

Gerry Appleby, 69, almost blind and pushed by jail guards into a courtroom in a wheelchair, also offered an apology of sorts to one of his victims.

"I'm sorry, son, for all the damage I've caused you all these many years. Someplace along the line our relationship went sour," Appleby said to the man.

The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Appleby that he had long ago forgiven him as part of a healing process that continues today with psychological counseling and antidepression medications.

But, he said, others whom Appleby molested during the 1970s as a priest at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Tarpon Springs continue to suffer without benefit of medical assistance.

"Think back on all the children whose innocence and virtue you stole like a thief in the night," the man told Appleby. "Many of those child victims are still struggling with the mental legacy. I'm 36 and still hurting."

The man also urged Appleby to "reveal the names of church officials who hid your conduct or looked away," a request to which Appleby did not respond.

Instead, Appleby referred to himself as a "bum" whom the priest he worked under at St. Ignatius "didn't deserve."

The exchange came during a court hearing at which Appleby struck a plea deal that allowed him to avoid life in prison if convicted of two charges of capital sexual battery on children.

Assistant State Attorney Brad Burnette told Circuit Judge Douglas Baird that both victims had agreed to allow Appleby to plead guilty to two counts of attempted sexual battery in exchange for a 12-year prison term.

After Appleby did so, Baird sentenced him to the 12-year term to be followed by 20 years on sexual offender probation. Baird also ordered Appleby to pay $3,103 in fees that include the cost of his extradition from Texas, where he was living when detectives tracked him down in March 2003.

Appleby said he was no longer a priest because he had received a "dispensation from Rome" since his deteriorating eyesight made it impossible for him to say Mass.

Contact: dsommer@tampatrib.com

 
 

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