Former Priest to Be Released from Prison

By Staci Bivens
KSN News
January 22, 2006

WICHITA, Kansas, Jan 22, 2006 -- A priest who pleaded guilty to molesting Kansas children is about to be set free. Attorney General Phill Kline hopes to lock Robert Larson up again but not for new crimes.

Kline wants Larson to go straight from prison to a hospital for sexual predators but that would mean going against a plea agreement the state had with Larson.

"Eric was very bright -- a very fun loving, fantastic student -- just a really wonderful son and brother," said Janet Patterson.

But Patterson says, in 1983, her son’s fun loving spirit became tortured by an awful secret. She blames Robert Larson, a priest with the Wichita Diocese.

"Robert Larson sexually abused our son Eric when Eric was 12 years old, a sixth-grader at St. Joseph School in Conway Springs, Kansas," said Patterson.

Eric killed himself years after the abuse and just months after admitting what had happened to him. He was 29 years old.

Robert Larson is serving the maximum five-year sentence for sexually abusing three altar boys and a teenager. His release is set for March but Attorney General Phill Kline wants to classify Larson as a sexual predator and lock him up in a hospital for sex offenders indefinitely.

The move goes against Larson’s 2001 plea agreement. In exchange for a guilty plea, the state said it would not seek to commit Larson under the Violent Predator Act.

Twenty years after the acts were committed, defense attorney Dan Monnat believes Kline is using his client to pander for votes at the taxpayers expense. Monnat insists his client is not a danger.

"Since then he has completed 19 months of intensive treatment for the problems that gave rise to those charges at the renowned St. Luke’s Institute," said Monnat.

Monnat said what Kline is trying to do now could set a dangerous precedent.

"If the State of Kansas doesn’t keep the promises it makes in plea agreements, then it’s unlikely that future defendants will enter into plea agreements with the State of Kansas."

But Janet Patterson insists that keeping Larson locked up is one of the best protections we can give Kansas children.


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