Ex-Priest Seeks Leniency in Abuse Case

Baltimore Sun [Towson MD]
October 7, 2006,1,3409369.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

A former Roman Catholic priest and Calvert Hall College High School chaplain has asked the judge who sentenced him in February to 18 months in jail for sexually abusing a former student to release him on home detention or probation, according to court records.

Jerome F. Toohey Jr., known as Father Jeff, pleaded guilty in November to sexually abusing a teenage boy for six months after the high school sophomore came to him in 1987 for counseling.

In his request, defense attorney Andrew Jay Graham wrote that the punishment "was a severe one," considering that the victim "engaged in consensual sexual activities" with Toohey and that "the events in question occurred nearly 20 years before the sentence was imposed and at a point in time when Mr. Toohey's judgment and emotional stability were impaired by extensive and long-term alcohol abuse."

Graham wrote that the former priest's sentence "is particularly onerous" because he must serve it segregated to keep him from being harmed by other inmates.

"Because of the nature of the crime of which Mr. Toohey stands convicted, he has been the subject of threats, taunts and ridicule by other inmates," the defense attorney wrote. "These conditions obviously have taken a severe emotional toll."

Prosecutors oppose the request, noting in their written response that they had asked for a prison term of more than 10 years at sentencing.

"It is the nature of his crime that requires protective custody," assistant Baltimore County State's Attorney Jason G. League wrote. "Even in prison culture, a person [who] commits the crime of sexual child abuse is reviled."

Toohey was convicted of abusing Thomas Roberts, a former Calvert Hall student who now works as an anchor with CNN in Atlanta. But as part of the plea agreement, prosecutors could argue for a tougher sentence using evidence of the priest's alleged sexual abuse of another young man, Michael Goles, who was a student at John Carroll School in Bel Air in the 1980s when he sought counseling from Toohey.

The Sun does not publish the names of sexual abuse victims without their permission. Both Roberts and Goles -- now in their 30s -- asked that their full names be used.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge John G. Turnbull II, who sentenced Toohey to five years in prison, suspending all but 18 months, indicated in a letter to the defense attorney that he will schedule a hearing in November to consider the request.

[Jennifer McMenamin]

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