Former Priest Pleads No Contest to Molestation

By Gary Grado
East Valley Tribune [Phoenix, Arizona]
September 1, 2004

An ex-priest pleaded no contest Tuesday to molesting an 8-year-old boy 20 years ago in a Phoenix church. Lawrence Lovell, 56, can’t remember the specific molestation but he knew he was committing such crimes during the period alleged in the indictment, defense attorney Jeffrey Myer said.

"He believes the victim is telling the truth," Myer said in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Prosecutor Rachel Mitchell said the crimes took place while Lovell was a pastor at St. Anthony’s Church in central Phoenix from July 1984 to May 1985.

Lovell is one of eight priests — four of whom led East Valley churches — indicted on sex-related charges in connection with a yearlong investigation into two decades of sexual misconduct in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

The investigation also led to an immunity agreement with the diocese’s former leader, Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien, in May 2003, in which he admitted covering up for pedophile priests for years. O’Brien eventually re signed after he was involved in a June 14, 2003, fatal hit-and-run. He was convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Lovell will be sentenced to prison for 5 1 /4 to 14 years and lifetime probation. The prison term would be consecutive to a 14-year sentence he is serving for molesting a child in Yavapai County.

Judge Ronald Reinstein scheduled sentencing for Nov. 18.


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