Victim Testifies at Hands' Abuse Sentencing

By Rita Ciolli
March 4, 2003

The Suffolk boy who was sodomized by the Rev. Michael Hands when he was 13 years old spoke out in a Riverhead courtoom today at the priest's sentencing.

"In August, 1999 I died. I was murdered by a trusted friend, a 35-year-old priest," said the 17-year-old.

The victim went on to detail the sexual abuse. He recalled being in agonizing pain after being sodomized while Hands looked down at him and said, "What's wrong ----? You should be smiling." This victim, his tone even and showing no emotion, said in court today, "He destroyed every ounce of faith within my soul." Hands faced the teen, struggling to hold back tears as the youth read the statement.

Later, Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow sentenced Hands to two consecutive one-year sentences that can be served in the county jail. Hands will be sentenced in Nassau County next week for similar charges involving the same teen, Braslow told Hands he should use his time in jail to reflect on what he had done. "I still don't think you understand, you're still blaming other people," Braslow told Hands.

Newsday is withholding the identities of Hand's victim and his family because the boy was sexually abused.

During the 15-minute proceeding, the boy's mother spoke first. She said she is still haunted by the abuse and blames herself for not being able to protect her son.

"There can be no true justice. You have taken my son from me. The innocence of his childhood is gone. There can be no true justice to bring back what I have lost," she said, her anger cool. "How can my son not hate me for failing to protect him? How can he ever forgive me when I can't even forgive myself?" "Because you refuse to take responsibility for your behavior, forgiveness does not enter my mind."

The teen's father told Hands, "You are the most disgusting, useless life form on the planet." He said his family has been on a 22-month roller coaster and ended his statement by expressing sorrow for Hands' family because of the priest's behavior.

Hands, who seemed stunned by the family's outrage, sat down for moment before he rose to read his statement. By then, the family had left, exiting through the judge's chambers to avoid the media.

Braslow had rejected an earlier request by Peter Rubin, Hand's defense attorney, that the family remain the courtroom so they could hear Hands' apology. Hands began by offering "my profound apology to the court, to the people of Suffolk and to the people of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. But most importantly and profoundly I want to apologize to the young man, the high school teenager I was involved with and to his family."

Hands went on to say that while he was in therapy he was able to confront the fact that he too had been "sexually abused" and "manipulated" mentally molested as a teen. However, today, he did not identify by name the Rev. Charles Ribaudo, whom he had earlier accused as having abused him while he was a student at Trinity High School.

Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.