Former Pastor Gets One Year for 26 Sex Offenses

Associated Press
June 24, 1986

A Roman Catholic priest was ordered to serve one year in prison for his no-contest plea to 26 sex-related counts for assaults on about a dozen young boys.

The Rev. William C. O'Connell, former pastor of St. Mary's Church in Bristol, was given a five-year prison term following his plea Monday, but Superior Court Judge Antonio Almeida suspended all but one year of the sentence.

The judge said O'Connell would have to serve four years'probation upon his release and also undergo two years' of counseling at St. Luke's Institute, a Catholic facility in Maryland where the priest has been receiving treatment for alcohol and sexual problems.

O'Connell pleaded no contest to 12 counts of second-degree child sexual assault, 10 counts of soliciting, two of exploiting minors and two of contributing to the delinquency of minors.

Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Pine said the victims'families had agreed with the sentence.

"We feel it's a good sentence because on the one hand he is getting punished, but, on the other hand, he is getting some treatment," Pine said.

"Father O'Connell has received appropriate treatment, and the diocese will continue to be of any possible help to him. It is understood, however, that he will no longer function as a priest,"said Bishop Louis E. Gelineau, head of the Diocese of Providence, in a brief statement. "I sincerely regret any harm that has come to the children and their families on account of the conduct underlying these criminal charges."O'Connell, 64, resigned as pastor of St. Mary's after 12 years when he was indicted in April 1985. He is the third priest from the diocese to be charged with sex offenses in two years.

O'Connell was charged with assaults on boys ranging in age from 12 to 17 at the St. Mary's rectory and at his summer cottage. A $14 million civil suit has been filed in the case.


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