Once free, Larson could be locked up
"I consider him a predator," Kline said of Larson, "and we're doing all we can to keep him off the streets."
Larson, 76, pleaded guilty in 2001 in Harvey County District Court to abusing three altar boys and a 19-year-old man while he was pastor of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newton in the 1980s. He will have served five years in prison -- the longest term possible under the state laws in place at the time of the crimes -- when he is released from Lansing on March 20.
One of the terms of the plea agreement under which Larson admitted guilt is that the state would not seek Larson's commitment under the Violent Predator Act. That agreement was signed by then-Harvey County Attorney Matt Treaster and Dan Monnat, Larson's defense lawyer.
The state "would be breaking the promise it made to Larson to get him to give up his constitutional right to a jury trial to now seek his commitment as a sex predator," Monnat said.
"Robert Larson was not a sexual predator at the time the state of Kansas made its written promise not to claim he was," Monnat said. "He is not a sexual predator now. The state must honor its written agreements and the facts."
But Kline said the power to make such an agreement "rests in my office," not that of a county attorney. As a result, he said, he does not feel bound by the plea agreement.
"We are going to file notice with the court.... We intend to have him classified as a predator and confined in Larned," Kline said, referring to the sexual predator treatment program at Larned State Hospital.
One of the altar boys Larson admitted molesting, Paul Schwartz, said he felt confused and angry after being notified by a Kansas Department of Corrections official that Larson is not considered a sexual predator.
"The nightmares come back of the abuse. The anxiety attacks come back," said Schwartz, who was 13 when Larson began fondling him. "I would love to sit there and ask them one simple question: 'Would you allow Robert Larson unmonitored access to your children?' "
A psychologist has evaluated Larson, Monnat said, and does not consider him a threat. Schwartz said he was told that the conclusion was based on Larson's mental condition and age.
But that offers no peace to Schwartz or David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a national victims advocacy group.
"It's terribly depressing that people believe somehow that advancing age cures pedophilia," Clohessy said, adding, "It honestly raises the question 'Just how obviously, incorrigibly twisted must you be to qualify for this distinction if someone like Larson doesn't qualify?' "
Authorities in Sedgwick and Harvey counties launched criminal investigations into Larson after The Eagle published a story in August 2000 in which several former altar boys of Larson said he had molested them. Larson served as a priest in the Wichita Diocese for 30 years before being removed from the pulpit in Newton in 1988.
Newton police Detective T. Walton said Friday that more than 50 former altar boys filed criminal complaints in Wichita and Newton, but the statute of limitations had run out on most of the allegations.
Reach Stan Finger at 268-6437 or email@example.com
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