Priest's Sentencing Set in Sex-Abuse Case
A Judge Ruled, However, That the Sole Convict in the Philadelphia Investigation Is Not a Predator
By Nancy Phillips
October 29, 2005
The Rev. James J. Behan, the only priest to be convicted in the Philadelphia grand jury investigation of sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, is to be sentenced Dec. 9, a judge ruled yesterday.
Behan, 61, pleaded guilty to sex charges in February and admitted he had repeatedly assaulted a teenager in the late 1970s, starting when the boy was 15.
Prosecutors charged Behan after successfully arguing that he had stopped the clock on the statute of limitations by leaving the state in 1980.
At a hearing yesterday, Common Pleas Court Judge Pamela Dembe ruled that despite his crimes, Behan is not a "dangerous sexual predator" as defined by state law and thus will not be subjected to monitoring after serving his eventual sentence.
Dembe said she reached that conclusion after reviewing reports by two psychologists who evaluated Behan and reading letters from more than 325 supporters, including parents of children the priest had taught or ministered to over the years. In the more than two decades since Behan assaulted the boy, the judge said, "there have been no further crimes committed."
In part for that reason, Dembe rejected the prosecutor's request to classify Behan as a predator, a label that would have toughened his sentence.
Behan, a member of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, has been barred from public ministry and now lives in Childs, Md.
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