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  Ex-Priest Is Granted Probation
He Is in Prison for Earlier Case of Sexual Abuse

By Diane Carroll
Kansas City Star
January 18, 2003

SENECA, Kan. - A former Catholic priest in prison for abusing a 15-year-old boy in Douglas County was granted probation Friday on charges involving the same boy in Nemaha County.

In the Nemaha County case, Dennis E. Schmitz, 41, pleaded guilty in December to two counts of indecent solicitation of a minor. Senior Judge Fred Jackson sentenced Schmitz to 24 months in prison on the first count and 12 months in prison on the second, to be served concurrently.

As part of a plea agreement, the judge suspended the sentence and placed Schmitz on probation for two years. The probation will begin after Schmitz finishes a 32-month prison sentence imposed in Douglas County in October.

Before Jackson ruled, Schmitz apologized to the Johnson County boy, now 19, who was in the Nemaha County courtroom. Schmitz also apologized to the boy's family, his own family and God.

"I am a sinner, I was a sinner, I seek forgiveness," said Schmitz, who served in several parishes in the Kansas City area. "I pray somehow God will find a new path and journey for me.

"I ask for his pardon and forgiveness, a mea culpa, mea maxima culpa ... for all those whom I have harmed."

Schmitz is the only Kansas City-area priest who has faced criminal charges since the sexual abuse scandal began in the Catholic Church a year ago. He is the first area priest to be sent to prison on a sex-related charge in more than a decade.

Schmitz pleaded guilty to soliciting the boy in 1999 at S&S Ranch in Nemaha County. Schmitz co-owned the ranch, which occasionally served as a gathering place for young Catholics.

The two counts took place during the same incident, authorities said.

In September, Schmitz pleaded guilty to taking indecent liberties with a minor in fall 1998 at his Douglas County residence.

Schmitz's attorney, Stephen Mirakian, has said that that plea was part of an agreement that called for Schmitz to receive probation in Douglas and Nemaha counties and 60 days' shock time in jail in Nemaha County.

Douglas County District Judge Michael Malone, however, imposed the prison term.

Mirakian maintains that Schmitz should be eligible for probation under Kansas sentencing guidelines. He filed an appeal Jan. 5 with the Kansas Court of Appeals.

The victim declined to comment Friday. He has attended all of the court proceedings this fall but has not spoken during any of them.

Schmitz's father and other family members also were at the sentencing. A family member said they did not want to comment.

Schmitz was transferred Dec. 31 from the Douglas County Jail in Lawrence to the El Dorado Correctional Facility, said Bill Miskell, public information officer for the Kansas Department of Corrections.

Prisoners often go to El Dorado initially and then are transferred elsewhere, Miskell said. There is a good chance Schmitz will be transferred, he said.

Schmitz, of Marysville, was removed last May from his duties in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

He was ordained in 1989. He served in numerous parishes, including St. Ann in Prairie Village, Queen of the Holy Rosary in Overland Park and St. Joseph's in Shawnee. He was vocations director for the archdiocese.

 
 

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