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  Priest Admits Lesser Sex Charges
State Unable to Find Young Victims

By Jim Walsh
Arizona Republic
June 17, 1993

A Catholic priest accused of eight counts of sexual misconduct with minors has pleaded guilty to two lesser crimes, and sources said Wednesday that prosecutors signed off on the deal because they couldn't find victims to testify against him.

At a hastily arranged hearing late Tuesday afternoon, the Rev. Wilputte Alanson "Lan" Sherwood pleaded guilty to attempted sexual conduct with a minor and attempted sexual exploitation of a minor.

Both charges stem from Sherwood's sex acts with a 14-year-old boy Sept. 22, 1987, according to the plea agreement, which was accepted by Judge Maurice Portley of Maricopa County Superior Court.

Sherwood will be sentenced July 29 by Superior Court Judge Cheryl Hendrix.

Under the plea, he faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 15 years in prison on the charge of attempted sexual conduct. He would be required to serve at least half the term before becoming eligible for parole.

Sherwood also would be placed on lifetime probation for attempted sexual exploitation.

If Sherwood had been tried and convicted of the original charges of sexual conduct with a minor and sexual exploitation of a minor, mandatory-sentencing laws would have required a prison term of at least 27 years without parole.

During an interview with Chandler police, Sherwood admitted to having sex with 1,800 males since 1984. Twenty-two of his sex partners were under 18, he said.

But court records show that only one victim, a 17-year-old Tucson boy whom he picked up hitchhiking March 11, was willing to testify against the priest. The youth fled the priest's residence before any sexual contact was made and notified police.

The boy's testimony, however, related only to the relatively minor charges of furnishing obscene materials to a minor, indecent exposure, transporting a person for prostitution and attempted child prostitution.

The priest, who resigned as pastor of St. Benedict Church in Chandler after his arrest March 11, remains on paid leave from the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

Robert Campos, a deputy Maricopa County attorney, declined comment on the plea bargain under an agreement with Sherwood's attorney.

During Tuesday's plea hearing, Campos said that the charges against Sherwood stem from a 1987 sexual liaison with "Edward," whom the priest cataloged as sexual encounter No. 586.

The plea deal calls for the sex acts to be designated as dangerous crimes against children under state law in effect in 1987, which barred sex acts with children under 15. In 1989, the definition of dangerous crimes against children was amended to apply only to children under 14.

 
 

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