|Friends of Former Priest Support Him in Filing
December 12, 2009
ELYRIA — Former Elyria priest Patrick O'Connor, who faces sentencing Monday on charges he molested a teenage boy 12 years ago, watched adult movies with the youth and initiated sexual activity after inviting him into the rectory, according to court documents filed Friday.
O'Connor, 52, pleaded guilty to a single count of corruption of a minor as part of a plea agreement that could see him serving 18 months in prison.
But his attorney, Brian Downey, argued Friday in the filing that O'Connor should receive probation or a minimum prison sentence.
He bolstered his argument with letters of support from a prominent car dealer for whom O'Connor works as the finance manager, an Akron police officer, another pastor who has known O'Connor since college, an Elyria Municipal Court bailiff, and a psychotherapist who is treating him.
Car dealership owner Ken Ganley said he was married by O'Connor and O'Connor baptized his three sons. They came to know one another when O'Connor became the associate pastor of St. Basil Church in Brecksville in 1990.
"Patrick was honest with me last June when the incident from his past came to light," Ganley wrote. "I was saddened and disappointed. However, it is my opinion that he is remorseful for his behavior … I have assured Patrick that no matter what the outcome of this case, he will have a job here as long as he wants one."
James Lynsky, the court bailiff who formerly was a Cleveland police officer and who worked with the Lorain County Drug Task Force and for the Lorain County Prosecutor's Office, said he has known O'Connor since 1994 and watched O'Connor counsel those with personal problems and guide them through rough times.
He personally helped one of Lynsky's family members who was having religious misgivings, Lynsky said.
"I feel that is an aberration of the person that I know," Lynsky said.
O'Connor, Downey wrote, attends weekly counseling sessions, and he's enrolled in a weekly group therapy session at the Cleveland Clinic to address his problems.
"Mr. O'Connor fully recognizes the harm his actions have caused the victim; he is deeply sorry and ashamed," Downey said.
The documents filed by Downey stated that the victim, then 15, and O'Connor agree on what happened — that in 1997, when O'Connor was a priest at St. Jude Church in Elyria, he invited the boy into the rectory, where they watched the movies and had sex. The only difference in their account, Downey wrote, is that the boy said O'Connor gave him beer, but O'Connor does not recall doing so.
In addition to working at St. Jude, O'Connor also served as the Elyria police chaplain.
The victim came forward to the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland in June 2008, and the allegations were turned over to Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will. O'Connor resigned from the ministry when the allegations came to light, and he initially was charged with sexual battery, a crime that could have sent him to prison for five years.
O'Connor had been on administrative leave from the church from 2003 through 2007 while the Diocese investigated earlier sex abuse allegations from when he was a priest at St. Joseph Church in Cuyahoga Falls during the 1980s. When he was indicted, he had been working as chaplain for the Sisters of the Most Holy Trinity and Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine, both in Euclid, jobs that were deliberately designed to keep him away from children.
Downey said that O'Connor attends four to five therapy sessions a week between his various groups, and he's being treated for depression and anxiety and is taking medication.
Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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