Priest, Sex Addict Gets 10 Years
Apology for Acts with Minors Fails to Sway Judge
By Jim Walsh
August 28, 1993
Despite his first public apology for having sex with minors, a 48-year-old man who led a dual life as Catholic priest and sex addict was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison.
Judge Cheryl Hendrix of Maricopa County Superior Court rejected a prosecutor's argument that the Rev. Wilputte Alanson "Lan" Sherwood deserved additional punishment because his crimes betrayed a position of public trust.
But Hendrix, who viewed videotapes that Sherwood recorded of some of his more than 1,800 homosexual sex acts with adults and 22 with juveniles, said she found the priest's conduct depraved.
"Mr. Sherwood, it was so sad, it was so pathetic, it was so disgusting," Hendrix said of her reaction to the tapes.
Although Sherwood regrets the damage his crimes have inflicted on his family, on his former parishioners in Chandler and on his church, he is not remorseful enough about the psychological impact his behavior had on his victims, Hendrix said.
"There are clearly some individuals who are going to be affected by this," the judge said.
Sherwood received 10 years for one count of attempted sexual conduct with a minor. Hendrix also placed Sherwood on lifetime probation for attempted sexual exploitation of a minor.
Blair Renfro, 18, who called police after Sherwood picked him up in March and approached him sexually in the rectory of St. Benedict's Church, called the sentence fair.
Family studies civil suit
But Renfro said his family in Tucson is considering a civil suit against the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix. Renfro said he never would have been victimized by Sherwood if the church had obtaining adequate counseling for the priest in 1986, when the priest informed Bishop Thomas O'Brien of a misdemeanor conviction for exposing himself to an undercover policeman in an adult bookstore.
"I'm changed a lot," said Renfro, now a freshman at Pima Community College in Tucson. "My sense of humor is totally different. I get offended by sexist jokes."
In his 20-minute address to the judge, Sherwood apologized for his compulsive sex acts but said he decided in 1988 to stop picking up juveniles for sex because he knew it was morally wrong and he feared getting caught.
Before his arrest in March, Sherwood said, he declined to have sex with juveniles on 19 or 20 occasions after learning how old they were. "I feel deep remorse and sorrow for the acts I have committed. I don't think I'll ever be able to rid myself of that guilt," the priest said.
"I am particularly aware of the pain and the hurt my actions have caused to my family.
"There is no way I can make it up to the people of the parish I served. I know I have hurt them deeply."
But Sherwood defended his record as a priest, maintaining that he carefully kept separate his dual lives as priest and sex addict.
'I did a lot of good'
As the founding priest of St. Benedict's, and in his other church assignments, "I did a lot of good in a lot of people's lives," he said.
Martha Mathias, Sherwood's sister, said, "I feel that Lan is not a threat to society; he's not a threat to anyone."
She said her brother has been helped by counseling and would like to see his therapy continue in prison.
"I think this was a real cry for help, and it was a relief for him that all of this came out," she said.
Sherwood will be required to serve at least five years before he becomes eligible for parole. Ted Jarvi, Sherwood's attorney, said parole is less likely to be granted to sex offenders.
Asked for comment on the sentencing, Jarvi said, "My comment is that you guys are all bloodsuckers."
Sherwood had faced a minimum of five years in prison and a maximum of 15. He had been charged with numerous crimes but agreed to plead guilty June 5 after the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that prosecutors must release Sherwood's videotaped confession. In sentencing the priest, Hendrix noted that although Sherwood used no force to obtain sex, he coerced his victims.
Chandler police Detective Jim Tollefson testified that Sherwood's own records show he paid his sex partners more than $13,500 to have sex, from May 1984 through February 1993. The sexual forays cost Sherwood about $115 a month, he estimated.
Priest may be defrocked
O'Brien released a written statement Friday afternoon, saying he will now consider whether Sherwood will be defrocked but giving no timetable for his decision.
Marge Injasoulian, acting chancellor for the diocese, said it may be six months or more until a final resolution of Sherwood's status in the church is reached. Sherwood will not be paid during that period.
She said O'Brien will appoint a committee to study Sherwood's case and church law, then make a recommendation to a church tribunal similar to a court.
Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Robert Campos told Hendrix that being a priest is not a part-time job and that Sherwood was expected to act as a priest even when he left church grounds.
"Priests lead by example," he said. "They're held to a high standard.
They get respect from being a priest. It's a position of trust."
As a priest, he said, Sherwood should have been helping the poor, hungry and tired hitchhikers, rather than preying upon them for sexual gratification.
But several of Sherwood's former parishioners testified that they still trust and respect the priest.
Beth Pattock, religion-education director at St. Benedict's, said she would trust Sherwood around her three small children.
"They (the children) think of him as a family friend," Pattock said.
"He's their priest. They understand that he has an illness. And, as in any illness, they have the hope that he will get well."
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