|Ex-Priest Guilty on All 10 Counts; Jury Recommends 200 Years
October 30, 2008
A Louisa County jury found former Catholic priest Rodney L. Rodis guilty today of stealing from two parishes he served as pastor.
The jury reached its verdict on all 10 felony theft counts at about 6:30 p.m., after deliberating for a little less than an hour.
At 8:30 p.m., jurors returned with a sentencing recommendation of 20 years per count for a total of 200 years, the maximum allowed. Formal sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 14.
Rodis, a native of the Philippines, testified today that he was trying to help needy family members and others in his homeland.
"There's a lot of people back in my country that need help from me," he said in court.
Rodis apologized to his former parishioners.
But prosecutor Thomas A. Garrett Jr. said that Rodis also bought an upscale two-story house with the money.
According to court testimony, Rodis stole more than $1 million from Immaculate Conception and St. Jude Catholic churches as he solicited money for major capital campaigns.
Several parishioners testified that their faith was shaken by Rodis' violation of trust.
Toni Seay, director of religious education at St. Jude, said that because of the embezzlement, the parish does not have a proper Sunday school facility for its 40 children and as a result she suffers from a lack of trust in the church as well as her new pastor.
Garrett used the parishioner's testimony to argue for the maximum sentence of 20 years per count.
"I challenge you to contemplate a worse crime of embezzlement than this one," he said to the jury.
Rodis' lawyer, John R. "Jack" Maus, asked the jury to take into consideration Rodis' declining health, including a stroke he suffered in 2005 and prostate cancer. He said no amount of prison time could rebuild the trust that was betrayed.
"I don't know how you rebuild that, but it's certainly not by sending him to prison for the rest of his life," Maus said.
Twelve jurors and two alternates were chosen in Louisa Circuit Court to hear evidence in the case. Rodis is accused of stealing money donated to both of the churches he led.
He retired as pastor of both churches in May 2006 for health reasons. A suspicious donation deposit later that year led to an investigation and the embezzlement case against him.
The probe revealed that Rodis had been living with a wife and children near Fredericksburg while leading the two churches from 1993 until his retirement, flouting centuries-old Catholic rules prohibiting priests from having sex or marrying.
Rodis already is serving a five-year prison term for mail fraud, money laundering and wire fraud in a related federal case.
Evidence in the federal case, which concluded against him this year and was based on the same incidents, indicated that he sent money home to his native Philippines, where family members bought property.
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