Sexual Abuse Case: Judge Lifts Formal Probation|
Move Allows Former Henderson Priest to Be Housed in State Where One of His Victims Lives
By Glenn Puit
Las Vegas Review-Journal
August 27, 2004
A former Henderson priest who sexually abused boys has been taken off probation and allowed to live in Missouri even though one of his victims resides there.
When informed Wednesday evening of Mark Roberts' relocation to Missouri, 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.
District Judge Donald Mosley confirmed Wednesday that he has taken Roberts off formal probation and ordered that Roberts be housed at a special treatment center for priests known as RECON in Jefferson County, Missouri.
The facility is the same rehabilitation center Mosley tried to place Roberts in last year, but the plan was rejected by Missouri probation officials because one of Roberts' victims lives in the state.
Since then, Mosley said officials with the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation repeatedly have tried to find a treatment facility for Roberts. However, they have not been able to locate a specialized facility in a state willing to supervise Roberts while he serves three years' probation for abusing five Southern Nevada boys.
Most recently, Mosley said, the state of New Mexico rejected a request to assign its probation officers to the supervision of Roberts.
As a result, Mosley signed an order last week that took Roberts off formal probation. The judge placed Roberts on informal probation, and this cleared 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 no longer will have a probation officer. Instead, the judge will monitor Roberts' progress via regular updates from the RECON facility's 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," Mosley 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," the judge said.
Mosley said he understands that Roberts will never be allowed to work as a priest again.
The new plan did not go over well with the executive director of the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. SNAP vehemently protested the original plan to send Roberts to Missouri.
David Clohessy, executive director of the Chicago-based group, said he is dismayed that Nevada is sending Roberts to Missouri anyway, this time without formal monitoring by a probation officer.
"Our hearts ache for this family," Clohessy said. "I'm very troubled by both the decision and how it was made ... with no input from the victim."
Clohessy said under the new agreement, the Catholic Church, not a probation officer, is responsible for reporting any violations of the judge's orders to Mosley.
"This is the same old, same old," Clohessy said. "Abusive teachers don't get sent to a treatment facility run by their employer, and neither should abusive priests."
The allegations against Roberts, 53, surfaced in February 2002 while Roberts was a priest at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church on Boulder Highway.
According to authorities, at least five boys alleged they were subjected to strange sexual rituals at the hands of Roberts. All of the victims are now between 17 and 20 years old.
In January 2003, Roberts pleaded guilty to one count of open and gross lewdness and four counts of child abuse and neglect. During a May hearing, Roberts was sentenced to probation.
Clark County prosecutor Doug Herndon said the district attorney's office opposed taking Roberts off formal probation. Herndon got the sense Mosley was 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 in-patient facility," Herndon said.
However, Herndon said, Roberts will not necessarily benefit from having Mosley as his personal probation officer.
"If I was a criminal defendant, the last probation (officer) on earth I would want would be Judge Mosley," Herndon said. "Judge Mosley has one probationer on his caseload, and it is Mark Roberts. I have confidence that if Mark Roberts screws up in the least, Judge Mosley will yank him back and put him in jail."
Al Massi, an attorney for several of the victims, said a civil lawsuit against Roberts and the Catholic Church is pending.