Former Priest Sentenced on Sex-Related Charges

By Rocco LaDuca
June 7, 2006

UTICA- A former priest convicted of taking erotic photographs of an underage boy was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison Tuesday, but only after his defense attorney made one last attempt to spare his client from severe punishment.

"He's not the monster that everyone portrays him to be," attorney Pal Lengyel-Leahu of California said as James Tamburrino faced Oneida County Court Judge Michael L. Dwyer for sentencing.

A jury found Tamburrino, 38, of Pillmore Drive, Rome, guilty March 30 of using a child in a sexual performance, attempting to use a child in a sexual performance, possessing a sexual performance by a child and two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

Lengyel-Leahu said Tamburrino has been "demonized in the media" because his case revolved around the homosexual tendencies of a former priest. Instead, Lengyel-Leahu said, police exploited Tamburrino's homosexuality-based "disease" by initiating phone conversations with a 15-year-old boy who encouraged Tamburrino to take naked pictures of him and possibly engage in sexual acts.

Tamburrino also was convicted of taking several photographs of another 15-year-old boy in Rome.

Assistant District Attorney Dawn Catera Lupi, however, explained that Tamburrino selfishly disregarded concerns over the boys' ages and offered to pay them to likely fulfill his sexual fantasies.

Lupi also read in court from a letter written by one of the victim's parents, who said watching Tamburrino be sent to prison with fear in his eyes would be her satisfaction.

"You are a monster who finally got caught preying on young boys for your own sexual gratification," Lupi read. "You once took an oath to do God's work... but you sold your soul to the devil."

Tamburrino was a former priest of the Carmelite religious order before he stepped down in 2001 following sex-related allegations in the Bronx.

In court Tuesday, Lengyel-Leahu clarified that these alleged acts took place before Tamburrino was ever associated with the church, and he was only named in the civil lawsuit by association.

Dwyer, however, said he thought differently of Tamburrino's current case.

"This case is not about homosexuality," Dwyer said. "To me, this case does not concern the priesthood at all. This case concerns your client preying on young boys."

Lengyel-Leahu also suggested Tamburrino should be supervised under home confinement, instead of "throwing my client in with the coyotes" of prison.

But Dwyer refused, emphasizing that the court should not send the message to pedophiles that their actions are acceptable.

"If you hurt our children, you are going to be punished severely," Dwyer said.

Dwyer also denied Lengyel-Leahu's last-minute effort to delay Tamburrino's sentencing until Tamburrino's mental health could be evaluated.



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