|Priest Gets 3 Years for Possessing Child Porn
By Elizabeth Allen
San Antonio Express-News
August 4, 2006
Father Jerzy Sieczynski, 55, was sentenced to three years in prison for possessing child pornography — a break from the 10-year-sentence requested by the state, but not the probation a stream of witnesses asked for at a sentencing hearing Thursday.
The Catholic priest's supporters were dismayed at the sentence, while members of an abuse support group said they wished he'd gotten more time.
"Three is better than nothing because it shows that the judges are taking this seriously," said Barbara Garcia Boehland, director of the San Antonio chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
At the time the pornographic images were found, Sieczynski was on deferred adjudication, a form of probation, after he pleaded no contest to a charge of indecent exposure in 2003.
In January 2004, a cable repairman discovered the images of underage boys on the priest's computer, leading to the four counts of possession of child pornography. Sieczynski pleaded guilty in May.
Boehland said her group organized a national call campaign to 226th District Court Judge Sid Harle urging a tough sentence, and estimated Harle's office received about 100 calls.
Sieczynski supporters also lobbied Harle, including Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Flores, who wrote a letter on the priest's behalf.
Marian Kaye Harvey testified during the hearing that she was on the verge of suicide when Sieczynski intervened.
"I really would give up my life at this point for him," she testified. "Your Honor, I beg of you to please look at the bright side, the other side."
Father Eddie Bernal promised counseling for as long as it would take to help Sieczynski.
"I know what he did is horribly wrong," Bernal said, "but I want to do everything I can to help him."
Harle denied the probation request, saying he was unconvinced Sieczynski takes responsibility for his actions.
Harle also said: "Someone of his stature perhaps should be held to a higher standard."
While it doesn't excuse his actions, defense lawyer Jimmy Parks said, Sieczynski was a victim of "masterful advertising" on the Internet designed to play upon a person's weakness — a difficult temptation when his celibacy vow put him "in a weakened position already."
Prosecutor Christina Playton said she was pleased to see Sieczynski going to prison.
"The fact is that he sought out and obtained pornographic images of children," Playton said.
Sieczynski is a former associate pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Church. He has been indefinitely suspended from ministry.
The facts of the case
District Court Judge Sid Harle sentenced Father Jerzy Sieczynski to three years in prison, a break from the state's requested 10-year sentence.
Sieczynski pleaded guilty in May to four counts of possession of child pornography.
In January 2004, a cable repairman discovered the images of underage boys on the priest's computer.
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