Priest Gets Probation for Abuse
February 6, 1996
The Rev. Edward B. Pritchard, one of the four area Roman Catholic priests who were charged last year with molesting altar boys during the 1970s, was sentenced to five years' probation Friday after apologizing in a Prince George's County court for his actions.
Pritchard, 51, pleaded guilty in December to one count of child abuse and two counts of child battery. Prosecutors said he molested three altar boys from 1974 to 1976 while serving as associate pastor of the in Lanham.
Circuit Court Judge William B. Spellbring sentenced two other priests -- the Revs. Thomas S. Schaefer and Alphonsus Smith -- to 16-year prison terms last year, but he rebuffed the prosecution's request to put Pritchard in prison for 18 months.
Spellbring said he handed down a lighter sentence because Pritchard was accused of only three incidents of molestation, whereas Smith and Schaefer were accused of repeatedly abusing their victims over years. Dozens of former parishioners and a priest urged leniency during Pritchard's sentencing hearing.
The Archdiocese of Washington stripped Pritchard, Schaefer, Smith and a fourth priest, the Rev. Edward T. Hartel, of religious authority in January 1995 after several former altar boys accused them of sexual abuse.
Schaefer and Smith pleaded guilty to the charges. Hartel pleaded not guilty and was acquitted by Spellbring after a trial in November.
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