Pastor Gets Probation on Porn Charge
By Jana Renn
December 13, 2005
The former pastor of St. John the Apostle Catholic Church in Leesburg will not go to jail after pleading no contest to one felony count of attempting to possess child pornography.
Loudoun County Circuit Court Judge Herman Whisenant Jr. on Monday sentenced the Rev. Robert Brooks, 73, to three years in jail but suspended the sentence in favor of two years probation.
Whisenant is also requiring Brooks to complete a sexual offender treatment program.
During the hearing, three people who have known Brooks for at least 15 years described him as an honest, caring and generous friend.
Brooks was indicted in February on a felony count of possession of child pornography. Brooks came under investigation in September 2003 when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it found his name registered on a child pornography Web site.
Arlington Diocese Bishop Paul Loverde announced he had removed Brooks from active ministry Oct. 4, 2004. Brooks resigned the next day.
The Arlington Diocese's Child Protection Policy in place says clerics are to be removed if they are found guilty of illegal sexual misconduct.
Brooks joined the Diocese of Arlington in 1974. He served many previous assignments as pastor before taking his position in Leesburg.
In a press conference by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) before Brooks' sentencing, Frank Bohan made several unsubstantiated charges about Brooks' conduct while Brooks was serving at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Annandale in the 1970s. Fairfax County Police are investigating the charges.
Rod Leffler, Brooks' attorney, said last week the priest remembers Bohan but denies that anything inappropriate ever happened with him.
Diocese officials said there were no prior sexual misconduct charges against Brooks.
Commonwealth's Attorney Jim Plowman told Judge Whisenant about Bohan's allegations but declined to call Bohan to testify at the hearing.
Plowman is a Catholic and member of St. John the Apostle Church but said he was there only a short time during Brooks' tenure.
Bohan referred to the hearing as "a love fest for Father Brooks. I'm shocked at such a light sentence."
At the same press conference Mark Serrano, a SNAP board member, called upon Bishop Loverde to protect children by taking real action in seeking out possible victims of priests in the Arlington Diocese.
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