Probation for Priest Who Solicited Sex from Boy, 16
Fair Lawn Native Arrested in Canada
By John Chadwick
The Record [Bergen County NJ]
May 2, 2003
A North Jersey priest who admitted soliciting an underage male prostitute in Montreal received the lightest possible punishment Thursday - two years of unsupervised probation.
The judge's decision to suspend the sentence allows the Rev. Eugene Heyndricks to return to his home in the Archdiocese of Newark, but prohibits him from being alone with children for two years.
The 61-year-old Heyndricks could face a new struggle when he returns: keeping his job as a priest in the face of tough new rules for clerics who abuse children. Heyndricks told The Gazette of Montreal on Thursday he "made a mistake" and plans to retire.
"My health isn't good, and this hasn't helped," he told the newspaper.
Heyndricks, a Fair Lawn native, had served quietly for two decades in parishes in Bergen and Hudson counties before his arrest last summer.
Coming on the heels of an unprecedented clerical abuse scandal, Heyndricks and another priest, the Rev. William Giblin, were arrested July 17 while traveling in a well-known gay neighborhood of Montreal. Heyndricks was charged with seeking sexual services from a 16-year-old, while Giblin was accused of arranging the encounter. The charge against Giblin was dropped last month because of a lack of evidence.
Heyndricks pleaded guilty. Police said they saw him and the boy walk into a hotel and emerge 45 minutes later. The prostitute told police Heyndricks paid him $100.
Police had placed the neighborhood - known as the Gay Village - under surveillance while trying to break up a male prostitution ring that catered largely to an American clientele.
During Wednesday's hearing, Judge Claude Millette cited Heyndricks' age and his otherwise clean record as factors in his sentencing decision. Defense attorney Frank Pappas said afterward that Heyndricks isn't a pedophile. He said his client failed to realize the prostitute was under the age of 18.
"He made a mistake, and he paid the price for it," Pappas said.
Prosecutor Sophie Lavergne had sought a four-month sentence under which Heyndricks probably would have been placed under house arrest in Montreal and required to perform community service.
"I wanted to make sure that anybody that had the idea to commit the same kind of crime would know that the courts will incarcerate," she said.
Under the judge's suspended sentence, there is no requirement for Heyndricks to report to a probation officer. But he can't be around children without the presence of another adult. And he must stay out of the neighborhood where he was arrested. If Heyndricks is arrested again for any reason within two years, the judge can impose sentence on him for the Montreal charge. The maximum is five years in prison.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers said the archdiocese has started its own disciplinary proceedings against Heyndricks and Giblin. Both priests will remain on leave.
Under the new rules, bishops must remove a priest from public ministry after one instance of abuse of a minor. Even if the priest is retired, a bishop can restrict him from celebrating Mass. The bishop can also permanently remove the priest from the clergy, returning him to the status of a layperson.
"This is not the conclusion, as far as we're concerned," spokesman Jim Goodness said.
Heyndricks' career with the church began in 1973, when he became a lay teacher at St. Joseph's elementary school in Oradell. A religious brother at the school steered him into the priesthood, he later said. After his ordination in 1981, Heyndricks served in parishes in Fairview, Park Ridge, and Ridgewood. He most recently served at a church in Guttenberg.
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