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  Priest Pleads Guilty to 7 Charges in Sexual Abuse of Arlington Boy
35-Year Sentence, Charges in District, Montgomery Looming

By Stephanie Griffith
Washington Post
March 26, 1991

A Washington priest pleaded guilty in Arlington County Circuit Court yesterday to seven felony charges of sexual assault of a 13-year-old boy.

The Rev. Thomas Chleboski, Jr., 30, a priest at Our Lady of Victory Church in Northwest Washington, pleaded guilty to one charge of solicitation to commit a felony, three charges of sodomy and three charges of "taking indecent liberties," or fondling the youth.

Chleboski faces a maximum penalty of 35 years for all of the charges.

Judge Paul F. Sheridan set sentencing for April 12. Robert Battle, an attorney for Chleboski, said the guilty pleas were "in the best interest" of his client.

A Montgomery County Circuit Court grand jury indicted Chleboski last week on 10 felony sex and child abuse counts stemming from his involvement with another boy at the Shrine of St. Jude Church in Rockville, where Chleboski served as a deacon and priest from 1985 to 1988.

Chleboski also faces an additional charge in D.C. Superior Court of molesting the Arlington youth at Our Lady of Victory school.

Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Richard E. Trodden said in court that the incidents took place from September to December of last year in the boy's Arlington home, shortly after his family moved there from Washington. The boy's mother was referred to Chleboski when seeking counseling after a divorce. Soon after, Trodden said, "the defendant began to show a special interest in the young boy."

Trodden said that Chleboski persuaded the boy's mother to transfer him from public school in Arlington to the school affiliated with his Washington parish. Chleboski took the youth on outings, purchased gifts for him and frequently drove him home from school.

The sexual assaults, Trodden said, occurred on several occasions in the boy's home. One encounter took place while the mother was out of town at a wedding.

On one occasion, Trodden said, Chleboski went to the boy's bedroom, purportedly to wish him good night, while the boy's mother was on an upper floor of the house. On another occasion, Trodden said, Chleboski showed the youth a pornographic film as a prelude to sexual activity.

Eventually, investigators said, the boy's mother grew suspicious and confronted her son, who acknowledged a sexual involvement with Chleboski.

Chleboski was relieved of all duties as a priest in December, according to Eileen Marx, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington. After yesterday's hearing, Chleboski, who had been living in a Trappist monastery in Maryland since his indictment, was taken into custody and his $ 25,000 bond was revoked.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Archdiocese said that "the Church is deeply pained when a priest is guilty of pedophilia; this act is a reprehensible violation of the public's trust in the clergy."

In 1984, Washington area priest Peter McKutcheon was suspended for life from the church after similar felony convictions. Marx said that Chleboski's future in the priesthood would be decided later by Cardinal James A. Hickey, but she said it was "highly unlikely" that Chleboski would remain a priest.

 
 

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