Former Calvert Hall Priest Sentenced
Toohey to Serve 18 Months in Jail for Abusing Two Students in 1980s
By Mary T. Robbins
The Jeffersonian [Maryland]
February 15, 2006
A former priest and head chaplain of Calvert Hall College High School has been sentenced to five years in jail with all but 18 months suspended for abusing a student in the 1980s.
Addressing the court during a Feb. 7 sentencing hearing, Jerome Toohey offered an apology for years of sexual abuse against Michael Goles and Thomas Roberts, whom he had abused in weekly counseling sessions after their families sought guidance from the man known as "Father Jeff."
"Michael and Thomas, I want you to know I am very sorry for any pain I have inflicted upon you and caused you and your families," said Toohey, dressed in a dark suit. He will serve his time in the Baltimore County Detention Center.
Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 10 years incarceration.
But Toohey's attorney, Andrew Graham, argued that imposing any prison sentence would be "inflicting pain on a man who is already down on the ground. His life is devastated."
Toohey, 59, of Lutherville, pleaded guilty last fall to one count of child abuse involving Roberts.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed not to pursue criminal charges against him for the alleged sexual abuse against Goles, who attended John Carroll School in Bel Air. The priest was stripped of his pastoral duties in 1993 by the Baltimore Archdiocese after Goles accused Toohey of sexually abusing him in the 1980s after the youth's family had sought counseling from Toohey.
Roberts, now an anchor for CNN in Atlanta, was a 14-year-old sophomore when the abuse began. His mother, because of family problems, sought counseling for her son from the priest.
Usually, the names of victims of sex abuse are withheld from publication. However, in this case, Goles and Roberts have spoken publicly.
In a packed courtroom, several of Toohey's friends and family members also testified on the former priest's behalf.
They spoke of a man they described as selfless, generous and loyal, one who successfully battled alcoholism and went on to counsel recovering alcoholics.
Goles and Roberts were the only witnesses to testify on behalf of the prosecution.
Each man took deep breaths and paused in silence before gathering the courage to speak as their families broke down in tears.
"He would encourage me to sit next to him on a sofa where he would put his arm around me and stroke various parts of my body," said Goles, 35, of Atlanta.
His parents turned to Toohey for assistance when, at 15, Goles began questioning his sexuality. The abuse continued until he graduated high school, Goles testified.
The abuse turned Thomas' high school years into a "prison of self- hatred, a prison of shame, a prison of secrecy and complete self-doubt. My only saving grace was to graduate and get away."
After the hearing, Roberts said the sentence Toohey received brought him a sense of relief, and he hoped victims of abuse would be encouraged to step forward.
"I'm at peace," he said. "People can learn. To live in the truth is really nice."
E-mail Mary T. Robbins at Mary T. Robbins@patuxent.com
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