Probation Lifted to Let Former Henderson Priest Go to Missouri

The Associated Press
August 26, 2004

LAS VEGAS - A former Henderson priest convicted of abusing teenage boys has been taken off probation and will be allowed to move to a treatment center in Missouri even though one of his victims lives in that state, authorities said.

Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he took Mark Roberts off formal probation and ordered that Roberts be housed at Recon, a treatment center for priests in Dittmer, 40 miles southwest of St. Louis.

When informed of Roberts' relocation, a mother of one of his victims expressed outrage.

"We are surprised, saddened, but most of all, we're disappointed in these secret actions, and we look forward to getting some answers in the near future," Debbie Tullgren said.

Mosley tried to place Roberts at Recon last year, but the Missouri Probation and Parole Board denied Roberts' placement after groups protested that he would be living too close to one of his victims, who has moved to the St. Louis area.

Since then, Mosley said officials with the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation have been unable to find a treatment center in a state willing to supervise Roberts while he served three years' probation for abusing five southern Nevada boys.

Most recently, Mosley said, the state of New Mexico rejected a request for its probation officers to supervise Roberts.

Mosley said he signed an order last week that took Roberts off formal probation. The judge placed Roberts on informal probation, clearing the way for Roberts to be sent to Recon, which is run by the Catholic Church.

Mosley said Roberts will have to stay at Recon for his original sentence of three years, but he will not have probation oversight. Instead, the judge will monitor Roberts' progress with updates from the Recon facility director.

Mosley said if Roberts engages in any inappropriate behavior, "it is understood I can extradite him immediately."

"He's at that facility, and all the conditions are still imposed," the judge said. "He can't be around children, etc. We are doing the same thing we were doing initially, but now there is no state involvement."

Mosley said Roberts will not be allowed to work as a priest again.

The executive director of the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said he was angry that under the new agreement, the Catholic Church, not a probation officer, will be responsible for reporting any violations to Mosley.

SNAP opposed the original plan to send Roberts to Missouri.

"This is the same old, same old," said David Clohessy, executive director of the Chicago-based group. "Abusive teachers don't get sent to a treatment facility run by their employer, and neither should abusive priests."

Roberts, 53, was removed from his position as pastor at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Henderson in February 2002 and pleaded guilty in January 2003 to lewdness and child abuse involving five teens. He was sentenced in May 2003 to three years probation.

Authorities said Roberts subjected the boys to strange sexual rituals. All the victims are now between 17 and 20 years old.

Clark County prosecutor Doug Herndon said the district attorney's office opposed taking Roberts off formal probation, but said the judge appeared irritated with SNAP.

"The judge became very frustrated, and there was the perception that people were trying to interfere with what he was trying to do, which was put this person in an inpatient facility," Herndon said.

The prosecutor said he was confident that if Roberts violated terms of the judge's order, Mosley would sentence him to jail.

Al Massi, an attorney for several of the victims, said a civil lawsuit is pending against Roberts and the Catholic Church.


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