Priest Pleads Guilty to Lewd Conduct

By Alex Martin
April 30, 2007

St. Albans, Vermont — Stephen Nichols, a priest from St. Elizabeth's Church in Lyndonville, plead guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of a prohibited act for lewd behavior.

As part of his plea deal, Nichols admitted that on 2 separate occasions in 2005, he brought an 18 year old parishioner to Canada. On one of those occasions, the teenager got drunk. When they returned to the priest's Richford home, Nichols tried to fondle him.

The victim in the case has never been made public, but an advocate read a letter to the court in his behalf.

"This event has tainted the last 2 years with stress and uncertainty, and I am glad the end is in sight. The resolution is a good one, and I am happy to see that something like this won't happen again," said Amy Farr, reading from the victim's statement.

Representatives from the Catholic church attended Monday's sentencing.

"I'm very apologetic to any victims of abuse in these circumstances, because they have gone to someone for help and assistance, and they have not received that help. Rather, their trust has been betrayed," said Bishop Salvatore Matano of the Catholic Diocese of Burlington.

"This case is all about a betrayal of trust, and I think the court was clear that the reason that there had to be a jail sentence imposed was exactly for that... as a punishment piece, but also a deterrent value," said Cindy Maguire of the Vermont Attorney General's office.

Prosecutors say that they were pleased with the deal, saying the victim's age and Nichols' lack of a prior criminal record were factors in the sentence.

Stephen Nichols will begin serving his 30 day sentence today, and be on probation for 2 years after that. He's also required to undergo sex offender treatment.

The Catholic Diocese says that it will review Father Nichols' case to see if they will impose any disciplinary action. No decision on his fate within the church has been made yet.



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