Court Won't Downgrade Naked Priest's Conviction

By Vanessa Miller
Daily Camera

August 11, 2008

Whipkey to be sentenced in October

A Catholic priest convicted of indecent exposure after he was arrested for jogging nude around a high school track won’t have his conviction downgraded to a petty offense of public indecency, a Weld County District Court judge ruled Monday.

An attorney for the Rev. Robert Whipkey, 53 — who was serving at parishes in Erie, Mead and Frederick when he was arrested June 22, 2007 — argued before the court Monday that the indecent exposure conviction was unconstitutional.

Robert Whipkey

Defense attorney Harvey Steinberg said his client didn’t knowingly expose himself to members of the public and shouldn’t be subject to the higher penalties that come with a charge of indecent exposure.

Steinberg also argued that Whipkey shouldn’t have to register as a sex offender, which can be mandated with an indecent exposure charge.

Judge Timothy Kerns disagreed that Whipkey’s conviction was unconstitutional. He said Whipkey was found to have knowingly exposed himself and the court won’t downgrade the offense to public indecency.

"Given the nature of sex offenders and the risk they pose to the community, the court finds that, for those who knowingly expose themselves to the public, it is reasonable that they are given a higher level of sanctions and registrations," Kerns said.

Whipkey was due to be sentenced Monday, but because he appealed the constitutionality of his conviction and said he doesn’t plan to comply with a pre-sentence investigation, his sentencing has been reset for October.

Whipkey faces a sentence of probation to 18 months in jail and a fine of $500 to $5,000.

During his trial in June, prosecutors said the priest walked naked down the busiest street in Frederick, ran around the Frederick High School track in the buff and walked home naked about 4:30 a.m.

An off-duty police officer saw Whipkey, shined his light on the priest and followed him home, where he confronted him.

Whipkey was placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Denver after his arrest.

Nine years ago, the Archdiocese investigated Whipkey for "inappropriate personal behavior" when he was pastor of St. Anthony’s parish in Sterling. In that case, Sterling police said they looked into reports that 11-year-old boys had seen Whipkey naked at a summer camp. But the boys didn’t file formal complaints, and no charges were filed.

A woman also testified this summer that she had seen the priest naked about 20 years ago at a camp site.


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