|Priest Yet to Go to Prison
Sentenced in 2004 for Molestation but Only for 2 Years Because He Has Cancer, He Hasn't Served Time
By Zachary R. Dowdy
Newsday [Long Island NY]
February 17, 2007
It's been more than two years since a Suffolk mother sat in a Riverhead courtroom and watched a Catholic priest admit forcing her 5-year-old son to perform sex acts on him.
The priest, Barry Ryan, 58, of Palm City, Fla., told Suffolk County Court Judge Ralph Gazzillo in December 2004 that the acts occurred over many weeks, all under the woman's roof.
Ryan was ill at the time with what was diagnosed as terminal cancer, and he seemed barely able to speak as he sat in a wheelchair in the courtroom. Doctors thought he'd be dead in a few months.
So, hoping to spare her son what she said would be the trauma of a trial, and assured that Ryan would not live long, the mother agreed to a 2-year sentence for the priest, a term that would begin in July 2005. After all, everybody thought Ryan would be dead by the time his term was to begin.
But he wasn't dead - and he still isn't.
Ryan resides now in the St. Luke Institute, a church-run facility in Maryland that specializes in caring for wayward priests, and he still hasn't served a day of his prison term.
The boy he molested, now 9 years old, still sees a psychiatrist and is regularly roused from sleep by nightmares, his mother said.
She wants Ryan behind bars, but her requests to Suffolk prosecutors to intervene have not been successful.
"I'm very angry that they didn't impose a sentence," said the mother, whose name is being withheld to protect her son's identity. "I think it's despicable that they have not taken this man into custody and I'm sick to death of hearing he's so ill."
But Suffolk prosecutors said their hands are tied. While Ryan has outlived the most optimistic projections of when he'd succumb, they say he is getting sicker by the day, so they can't recommend to the judge that he be ordered to prison.
"We are continuing to monitor his condition and according to all the information we receive from the medical doctors and through our own inquiries we have been able to confirm that his condition continues to deteriorate and continues to worsen," said prosecutor Rosamaria Abbate.
An oncologist, Jimmy Hwang of Georgetown University Hospital, said Ryan can't travel, receives morphine for pain and his condition "continues to be poor."
Ryan's attorney, Joseph Ostrowsky of Brooklyn, said, "He's dying really slowly. ... Sometimes he's lucid and sometimes he's not."
That analysis contrasts with an assessment submitted in January in a civil suit the mother filed against Ryan and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, which employed him. One of the things a diocese attorney cited was an affidavit submitted by a physician that said Ryan was "affable, friendly and pleasant" during a July 2006 interview and that Ryan had greeted the physician at the door and walked him through the facility, apparently strong enough to abandon the wheelchair.
The attorney, Kristin Shea of Manhattan, said in an affidavit that Ryan, if he is allowed to testify in a deposition for the civil case, will say that he had told the Suffolk victim's father that he had been removed from "priestly duties" because he had molested another child in Alabama several years earlier. Shea was unavailable for comment.
In the meantime, the Suffolk mother and her son hope Ryan does time for his misdeeds.
"A little boy was brutalized," she said. "This didn't go on once. It went on for a period of months. I'm just desperate. Somebody should have to pay for this crime."
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