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  Priest Sentenced on Sexual Assault Charge

By James H. Ludwin
United Press International
October 7, 1985

A Roman Catholic priest was sentenced Monday to 86 years in jail for sexually assaulting church volunteer youths, but the judge suspended all but three years after an emotional plea for leniency.

The Rev. Paul Henry Leech, former assistant pastor at St. Jude's Parish in Lincoln, pleaded no contest last August to eight counts of sexual assaulting three teenage boys who were church volunteer workers between 1982 and 1984.

In a plea for leniency, defense lawyer David Martin noted that the priest had sought psychological treatment that revealed he was a victim of sexual assault as a child.

In an effort to keep the priest out of jail, Martin cited testimony from the priest's psychologist that jail time "will endanger or possibly destroy the gains made" through treatment.

The state prison has no treatment program for sex offenders, Martin added.

Leech, dressed in a gray business suit, told Orton he felt "guilty and ashamed."

While his voice shook with emotion, Leech said he had agonized over the incident and asked himself "How could I have done this loathesome thing I have done?"

Leech received 15 years for each of three counts of second-degree sexual assault, five years each for two counts of third-degree sexual assault, 15 years each for two counts of sodomy and one year for one count of simple assault.

Superior Court Judge John Orton suspended all but three years of the sentences which totaled 86 years, and said they would run concurrently. The judge also gave Leach 12 years probation and a week to take care of personal business.

Leech will be eligible for parole after serving about two years, said Robert Craven, the special assistant attorney general who prosecuted the case. He said the sentence was "fair."

Orton noted that the pre-sentence report was very favorable to Leech and said that the priest had shown genuine remorse.

"I've anguished over this sentence," Orton said. "Father Leech was a priest. The victims were young parishoners ... They had confidence and trust in Father Leech."

"I have no choice" but to impose a jail sentence to deter others, the judge said.

 
 

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