|DuPage Priest Who Molested 3 Boys to Remain Locked up
Jurors Declare Cleric a Sexually Violent Person
By Art Barnum
March 19, 2008
A Roman Catholic priest who served a prison sentence for molesting three Hinsdale Catholic school boys from 1982 to 1984 will remain incarcerated for the near future after a DuPage County jury Wednesday declared him a sexually violent person under Illinois law.
Fred Lenczycki, 63, is the first member of the clergy to be committed under the decade-old Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act. The jury deliberated for two hours before deciding he remains a threat to the public and has a probable chance of committing another sexual offense.
Lenczycki hugged attorneys and waved to relatives after the verdict was read.
He molested the boys—ages 10 to 12—when he was assigned to St. Isaac Jogues Church in Hinsdale. He was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to five years in prison. After he served half the sentence and was to be paroled, the Illinois attorney general's office and DuPage County state's attorney's office filed a petition claiming he should be civilly committed because he remains a threat to the public.
The jury heard four days of testimony, mostly by mental health experts, including two for the state who said Lenczycki was a threat, and two for the defense who said he wasn't.
One of the three Hinsdale victims, now an adult, was in the courtroom for most of the proceeding and the verdict but declined to comment afterward.
Linda Martin of Woodridge, the jury foreman, said jurors were concerned about Lenczycki being in only Stage 2 of a five-part treatment at an Illinois Department of Human Services facility in Rushville.
"We looked at all of the data and what the definition of a sexually violent person is. We had questions, and we answered our questions," said Martin, a special-education assistant. She said jurors took as many as 12 votes over two hours before they reached a unanimous agreement.
Throughout the proceeding, Lenczycki remained quiet and calm, showing no emotion and rarely talking to his attorney.
"He hasn't changed a bit," said Assistant Atty. Gen. Michael Kress in his closing remarks. "He will always have these urges. There is no evidence he can control his sexual behavior better now than he did in the past."
Kress declined to comment on the verdict.
James Montgomery, Lenczycki's attorney, said: "It's easier to be safe than take risks, and this was a difficult case for the jury. They were honestly concerned about victims.
"It's not easy to get people to keep their eye on the ball, to learn the potential consequences of their verdict," he said, adding, "Fred was fairly resigned when there was a quick verdict."
In his closing remarks, Montgomery said: "Please, no retribution. He has been convicted and served time. He has paid his debt to society. He has already been punished for what he did."
Prosecutors allege that Lenczycki, who is no longer allowed to function as a priest, molested more than two dozen young males from six parishes in three states before being convicted and imprisoned. He has been in the Rushville facility for the last two years.
Lenczycki also has admitted molesting youths at St. Peter and Paul's in Naperville and St. Charles Borromeo seminary in Romeoville during the 1970s. Other incidents occurred at parishes in California and Missouri, where he was assigned by the Joliet diocese after being removed from his Hinsdale assignment.
Lenczycki was automatically and permanently removed from the priesthood when he was convicted of sexual abuse, said Doug Delaney, spokesman for the Joliet diocese.
This follows the procedure laid out in a charter adopted by Catholic bishops in Dallas in 2000 and subsequently approved by Rome.
Delaney said that not only is Lenczycki banned from celebrating mass, "he can't wear a Roman collar, portray himself as a priest, dress as a priest, call himself a priest."
Beyond that, the diocese had little to say about the court action.
"It's not really our place to make a comment on this decision, other than the fact that we as always would support the decision of the jury and the judge," Delaney said.
The day before Lenczycki's trial, the Joliet diocese released a two-year progress report on protecting children. Officials said it would be distributed in an unusually broad way—in the Catholic newspaper, in the back of churches and on the diocese's Web site.
Lenczycki will return to the Rushville facility, where he will continue to receive treatment. State law requires a review of his status every year.
Judge Bonnie Wheaton, who presided over the jury trial, set June 3 for a status date.
More than 200 people have been declared sexually violent persons under the state law.
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