Priest Admits Paying Boy, 17, for Sex
By James F. McCarty
May 16, 2003
Confronted by the prospect of days of embarrassing testimony and a possible stretch in prison, the Rev. Daniel McBride waived a trial and admitted paying a 17-year-old boy for sex last year.
McBride, 76, was the only priest indicted after the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's seven-month investigation of child sex abuse in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese ended in December.
McBride's lawyer, Niki Schwartz, and a dozen or so friends and family members accompanied the retired priest in court yesterday.
McBride, with snow-white hair and a ruddy complexion, spoke forcefully.
He pleaded guilty to a charge of promoting prostitution, a third-degree felony, and faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
Common Pleas Judge Ann Mannen could decide to sentence him to probation when McBride returns to court June 26.
As part of a plea bargain, prosecutors agreed to drop six other prostitution-related charges.
McBride will be classified as a sexually oriented offender.
Schwartz argued outside the courtroom that McBride's crime should not depreciate his otherwise unblemished 50-year career as a priest. McBride was retired and, until last year, served as a senior associate pastor at St. Barnabas in Northfield Center Township.
"There was never even a hint that he did anything wrong with any other minors or any of his parishioners," Schwartz said. "What he did was as a private person. The fact that he happened to be a Catholic priest is irrelevant."
Assistant County Prosecutor Tim Miller said there was no evidence McBride abused any of his parishioners. "He clearly was leading a double life," he said.
In a statement, the diocese distanced itself from McBride, saying diocesan officials put him on leave, barred him from public ministry and removed him from the parish rectory as soon as they learned of the allegations against him last July. The unsigned statement also said McBride could face further action under new national and diocesan guidelines for dealing with sexual misconduct by priests.
Sheriff's deputies were staking out Marshall McCarron's Tavern in Ohio City, a suspected gay brothel, on April 21, 2002, when they saw McBride accompany a friend to the bar. He was there, prosecutors said, to meet the 17-year-old boy, a runaway "street kid" who was living with the bar's owner, Lyn Ernsberger. But before leaving five days later for a condominium he owns in Chautauqua, N.Y., McBride first cashed a $200 check at St. Barnabas. He paid the boy $140 and bought him a $10 compact disc by rapper Project Pat. They returned to Cleveland the same day.
Prosecutors dropped charges accusing McBride of being part of a corrupt business activity at McCarron's bar. If convicted of all the charges, the priest could have been sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Schwartz called those charges "preposterous," and accused prosecutors of targeting McBride specifically because he was a priest - a charge Assistant County Prosecutor John Mitchell denied.
"This was not a witch hunt," Mitchell said during pretrial arguments. "Nothing would have made me happier than to have had no priests indicted."
Anticipating a jury trial, Schwartz prepared questionnaires that would have asked prospective jurors' opinions of homosexuals, prostitutes, priests and the Cleveland Catholic Diocese. Questions included whether any of the jurors were gay, or whether they had had any positive or negative experiences with homosexuals or priests.
Avoiding the embarrassment of a trial motivated McBride to accept the plea bargain, Schwartz said. "He is ashamed and remorseful, and he feels bad that this reflects on his family and his church."
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