Winsted Priest Convicted of Sexual Assault
The Rev. John Rudy, Accused of Fondling an 18-Year-Old Man and an 8-Year-Old Boy, Pleaded No Contest to Fourth-Degree Sexual Assault and Disorderly Conduct
By David Owens
Hartford Courant [Connecticut]
November 6, 1999
Litchfield — The Winsted priest accused of fondling an 18- year-old man and an 8-year-old boy was found guilty Friday of fourth- degree sexual assault and disorderly conduct.
The Rev. John Rudy pleaded no contest to the charges as part of a plea bargain that spares him jail and from a listing on the state registry of sex offenders.
Rudy, 49, was arrested in June 1998 on charges that he touched an 18-year-old man's genitals while the man and a friend visited with Rudy at his home in the St. Joseph's Church friary. Rudy, a Franciscan priest, also allegedly steered the conversation toward sexual issues and a story about a man who had a tattoo of a rabbit on his genitals.
"Basically, Father Rudy groped the 18-year-old," said Senior Assistant State's Attorney Andrew Wittstein.
That allegation led to two charges of fourth-degree sexual assault against Rudy.
As a result of that charge, a woman came forward to report that her 8-year-old son had told her that Rudy touched his genital area while the two swam at Highland Lake during the summer of 1996.
"The child indicated that while swimming in a lake, accompanied by Father Rudy, Father Rudy had touched him through his pants several times," Wittstein told Judge Charles Gill.
Because that story could not be corroborated and out of concern for how a trial would affect the child, Wittstein reduced the charge filed against Rudy — risk of injury to a minor — to disorderly conduct. The reduction came after nearly a year of plea bargaining with Rudy's lawyer, Hubert Santos.
Besides a trial being tough on the child, Wittstein said, the allegation would have been the boy's word against that of a Roman Catholic priest.
"Based on that, I concluded this was the best and most appropriate route to take," Wittstein said, adding that the boy's family and the family's lawyer were satisfied with the plea bargain. "This is the best outcome I could have reasonably hoped to obtain."
Santos said Rudy has been a priest since 1977 and at St. Joseph's for several years. He "has vast support in that parish," Santos said.
Gill accepted Rudy's pleas of no contest, found him guilty and imposed the agreed upon sentence of a one-year suspended prison term, two years of probation, no contact with the victims, sex offender treatment and no unsupervised contact with people younger than 18.
"This is a kind of painful moment for me — as a judge, a parent and a practicing Catholic," Gill told Rudy.
Despite any illness, Rudy still had free will that should have prevented him from doing what he did, Gill said.
Gill did not read aloud, but reviewed a letter from a leader of Rudy's order, the Franciscans. In the letter, an order official assured Gill that Rudy would undergo at least six weeks of inpatient treatment at the St. Luke Institute, a treatment facility for priests who have been accused of sexual misconduct, and pledged to see that he continues to receive treatment the rest of his life.
The order also said Rudy would be assigned to a friary with limited or no contact with children. And any supervisor would have knowledge of Rudy's past, the letter stated.
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