Must Stay in Prison
By Stan Finger
Former priest Robert Larson will stay in prison for molesting four boys while serving at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newton.
Harvey County District Judge Theodore Ice rejected Larson's request to be released on probation after serving 120 days of a three- to 10-year sentence for the molestations.
"Nothing in the interim between the time of the original sentencing and now, including the additional documentation that has been furnished, in any way alters the initial opinion of the court that the defendant should serve his sentence," Ice wrote in a two-page ruling released this week.
"There was a significant age difference between the defendant and the altar boys who were victims of these offenses and by reason of his position had a great deal of power and authority over them," he added. "Additionally, based on the victims' statements, they suffered an immeasurable degree of harm."
Larson's lawyer, Dan Monnat of Wichita, said he has already filed an appeal with the Kansas Court of Appeals.
It figures to be a year before the appeal is heard, Monnat said. Unless he is granted an appeal bond, Larson will remain at the minimum-security state prison in Lansing.
"The play the media has given this case has prevented Robert Larson from being treated fairly," Monnat said. "These crimes occurred over 13 years ago."
Larson pleaded guilty in March to four sex crimes that occurred in the mid-1980s in Newton. With time off for good behavior, Larson could be released after serving 18 months.
Larson admitted guilt to charges that resulted from complaints filed by several men after several others told The Wichita Eagle that Larson had molested them while they were altar boys in his parishes or under his care.
The cumulative claims painted a pattern of abuse that stretched out over many years in several parishes he led and positions he held during his 30 years as a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Wichita.
Larson was sent by the diocese to an alcohol abuse treatment center in Michigan in 1981. In 1984, he was sent to Menninger Clinic in Topeka for evaluation and treatment. But Menninger staff concluded Larson was not a pedophile and told diocesan leaders he could remain in the pulpit.
A fresh wave of abuse allegations led to Larson's removal from the diocese in 1988, although none of those allegations became part of the case against him. He was sent to St. Luke Institute in Maryland for treatment and was eventually stripped of his title and responsibilities as a priest.
Larson, who is now 71, was retired and living in Willoughby, Ohio, when charges were filed against him in November. Monnat described Larson as "a frail old man who had to give up the priesthood and had to spend many years in rigorous treatment."
But Ice's ruling was hailed as a victory by those who accused Larson of abuse.
Paul Schwartz, one of the four men Larson admitted to molesting, said Wednesday he was glad Larson would continue serving his sentence - and that he wanted to get out of prison.
"I'm glad to see he doesn't like it, because prison isn't supposed to be a place that you like," Schwartz said.
Reach Stan Finger at 268-6437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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