A Former Catholic Priest Who Admitted He Molested Four Altar Boys Wants His Three-to-10-Year Sentence Amended
By Stan Finger
Robert Larson wants out of prison.
The former priest, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to four sex crimes involving altar boys at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newton, is asking that his sentence be amended to time already served, plus probation.
Larson's sentence was dictated by the laws in place at the time of his offenses, the mid-1980s. And those laws permit a reconsideration of sentence after 90 days.
Larson's lawyer, Dan Monnat of Wichita, said he wants Larson's sentence changed to the terms of a plea agreement approved by Larson's victims.
Under those terms, Larson would have served 90 days in jail and five years of probation.
But Harvey County District Judge Theodore Ice deemed that agreement too lenient; he sentenced Larson to three to 10 years in prison.
Larson, 71, is now in the minimum-security state prison in Lansing.
Ice may hold a hearing on the motion - at which Larson's victims may be allowed to testify - or he may rule on the motion without a hearing. No date for the decision has been set.
Paul Schwartz, one of the four victims that Larson admitted to molesting while serving St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newton, said he would come to court if necessary to urge the judge to keep Larson in prison.
"He did the crime; he's now doing the time. He's trying to get out of it," said Schwartz, who lives in Lenexa. "He's a convicted child molester."
After serving in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita for 30 years, Larson was removed by Bishop Eugene Gerber in 1988 following a wave of abuse allegations. Larson was sent to St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., for evaluation and treatment. Larson was later stripped of his title and priestly authority and instructed never to return to Kansas.
Harvey County launched a criminal investigation of Larson's activities after several men told The Wichita Eagle last summer that Larson had molested them. The allegations covered several years and several locations, and several more men came forward with complaints after the initial story was published.
Sedgwick County also launched a criminal investigation, but authorities said none of the complaints filed in Wichita against Larson fell within the statute of limitations. Charges were filed in Harvey County against Larson in November, and he pleaded guilty in February.
The St. Luke Institute re-evaluated Larson earlier this year and in a June 4 letter to Monnat stated that, "By any practical standards Robert Larson's treatment has been remarkably successful."
Other documents from St. Luke included in the motion for an amended sentence described Larson's treatment and his life in the years since he was removed from the diocese.
Larson was diagnosed at the institute with alcohol dependence and ephebophilia, which is a history of sexual behavior or sexual feelings towards adolescents. The four boys whose complaints were the basis of his guilty plea were near or just past puberty.
During his treatment, Larson admitted to a history of alcoholism and "significant sexual behavior difficulties," according to a document included in the latest court filing. He was in residential treatment at St. Luke for eight months in 1988, then moved to a halfway house for a year. Throughout that time he took the chemical castration drug Depo-Provera - a treatment that continued until both he and institute officials concluded he had established sexual sobriety, though the letters did not state when that was.
In January 1990, Larson moved to Elyria, Ohio, where he had several friends. He went to work for a community action agency, serving elderly shut-ins by notifying them of various support programs and other public welfare benefits.
A year later, he began working with a group called Family Services Association, where he developed a program for the elderly poor and working poor. His work was featured in local newspaper articles. Larson moved to Michigan to be near family in 1998 but returned to the Cleveland area in 1999, where he did part-time volunteer work.
"We see him as constituting no discernible risk to the public through inappropriate sexual behavior," Frank Valcour, medical director and vice president for clinical services at St. Luke, stated in a letter to Monnat that is part of the case file.
Darren Razor, another of Larson's victims, is unmoved by the prospect of Larson's recovery.
"I think he did the crime; he should do the time," said Razor, who lives in Newton. "There's guys in prison that have done a lot less than he's done."
Reach Stan Finger at 268-6437 or email@example.com.
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