Priest to Serve 10-Year Sentence

By Kathleen Sweeney
Telegraph Herald [Dubuque IA]
April 5, 1997

Many embraced with tear-filled eyes and smiles in a Dubuque County courtroom Friday after Rev. Timothy DeVenney was sentenced to 10 years in a state prison.

DeVenney's victims, their families and friends sat quietly watching Dubuque County deputies handcuff the former associate pastor of St. Columbkille's Catholic Church before taking him to prison.

It was finally over.

It was two years ago, one young man testified at DeVenney's pre-sentence hearing, that he fell victim to the abuse after helping the priest carry books.

"DeVenney asked me if I could help him," he said. Then he asked the boy if he wanted to become familiar with repelling gear.

DeVenney led the young man to a room in the church rectory where he abused him - a room where at least six assaults occurred.

"Since the arrest, I know he can't hurt anyone else," the young man said, staring into his offender's face. "No matter what happens here today, you and I both know that you will have to answer to a higher authority someday."

DeVenney, 33, pleaded guilty in January to eight counts of lascivious acts with a child and four counts of assault with the intent to commit sexual abuse.

He previously had pleaded not guilty to 18 charges of fondling Dubuque boys. He was charged in June with fondling five male teenagers against their will while assigned to the Dubuque church between July 1993 and June 1996.

He pleaded innocent in August to six counts of third-degree sexual abuse. In September, he was charged with seven counts of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse and five counts of third-degree sexual abuse.

Judge Alan Pearson recommended DeVenney receive treatment, and ordered him to register with the Iowa sex offender program within 10 days and pay a $200 fine.

Assistant County Attorney Chris Corken said justice was served.

"I'm relieved that it's over," she said. "What he took from those boys is something you can never get back. I think it was the right sentence."

In the stuffy courtroom that left many standing, DeVenney told the victims, their families, and his family and friends he was sorry.

"I know I have caused a lot of pain and hurt ... ," he said. "I'm very, very sorry for my acts and the pain and hurt I have caused everyone. It was never my intention."

Roxanne Patton, a Department of Corrections probation officer who conducted the pre-sentence investigation, said DeVenney hasn't taken responsibility for sexually assaulting the boys.

"(DeVenney) seemed to want to blame everyone else for his problems," she said.

At the pre-sentencing hearing, Marion Wettine, a St. Columbkille's parish member and worker, told Pearson DeVenney had a lot to offer to the world and shouldn't be sentenced to prison.

"I think he is a very good administrator and does care about people," she said. "If there is punishment, give it with some compassion. Maybe the young children will learn how to show some compassion."

Msgr. David Wheeler, vicar-general of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, said church officials were willing to pay for a sex offender treatment program.

"Tim needs this counseling," he said. "To me a program would achieve these goals far more than incarceration."

The mother of one of the boys disagreed and said DeVenney should be punished.

Her family trusted him, she said, and because he betrayed that trust, her son is in a depressed state of mind.

"It's something he'll have to deal with the rest of his life," she said.


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