Nevada Priest Renting Room in Vegas Two Months after Sentencing

Associated Press State & Local Wire
July 31, 2003

A Roman Catholic priest sentenced as a sex offender to probation at a Missouri counseling center remained Thursday in a Las Vegas rooming house while Nevada and Missouri negotiate how he'll be supervised, authorities said.

Mark Thomas Roberts, 52, has no home and could not stay under house arrest at his sister's home as a judge ordered May 30 because she has children, said Roberts' lawyer, George Foley Sr.

"It's hard to place the guy," Foley said, describing Roberts' unsettled living arrangements before he rented a room in Las Vegas. Foley declined to specify where Roberts was living.

Foley and Nevada Department of Parole and Probation officials said Roberts remained under strict oversight pending transfer to in-patient supervision at Recon, a treatment center for wayward priests in Dittmer, Mo.

"I had him at my house for two or three days," Foley said. "But he's under control of house arrest. Part of the security is that nobody knows where he is."

Deborah Tullgren, the mother of one of Roberts' victims, said Thursday the public deserves to know where Roberts was living.

She also expressed outrage that Parole and Probation recommended probation after one probation official recommended he get five years in jail for fondling and abusing boys at his Henderson parish.

"It's totally a disservice to the public and the community - Catholic and lay people," Tullgren said. "The original decision, where he was supposed to go to jail, seemed fit and due."

Parole and Probation chief Amy Wright said Thursday from Carson City that Roberts would be moved to Missouri once a written interstate compact is negotiated.

"It sometimes takes time in the case of violence or sex offenses where the offender is not a resident of that state," she said.

Missouri is investigating whether it can accommodate Nevada's request to move Roberts to Recon and transfer oversight to Missouri probation officers, said Tim Kniest spokesman for the Missouri Department of Corrections. He said the Nevada request arrived in Jefferson City, Mo., on July 8.

Roberts pleaded guilty Jan. 2 to one charge of open and gross lewdness and four charges of child abuse and neglect.

He was removed as pastor at St. Peter the Apostle Church in January 2001, but Foley said he remains a priest pending formal defrocking.

Roberts admitted he undressed boys and made them stand with their arms out as if they were on a cross; that he verbally abused and struck some boys; and that he had some whip themselves with cords, massage themselves or massage him.

Roberts has to register as a sex offender and is barred from dealing with minors.

Wright she reviewed the recommendation sent to Clark County District Judge Donald Mosley before Roberts' May 30 sentencing.

She said confidentiality rules prevented her from discussing specifics of the document, which was obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

But she confirmed the department recommend probation despite an initial recommendation that Roberts serve five years.

"The recommendation is a division recommendation," Wright said. "It is not an individual person's recommendation."

Pre-sentence specialist Carolyn Butts declined comment to the Review-Journal. The report bears her name and title, but not her signature. Wright said Thursday that Butts no longer works with in the department.

Roberts was the first Nevada priest accused in a nationwide church sex abuse scandal.

A Reno priest, Monsignor Robert Bowling, is on a leave of absence after being named last year in five lawsuits accusing him of sexually abusing women at a Catholic church and school near Louisville, Ky., from 1958 to 1962. Bowling has been pastor of the Reno church since 1974.


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