Priest Pleads Guilty to Sexually Molesting Boys

United Press International
June 9, 1986

SPOKANE, Wash. — A suspended Roman Catholic priest pleaded guilty Monday to four counts of having sexual contact with boys in his care at a drug and alcohol treatment center.

The Rev. Ronald Lane Fontenot, 40, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree statutory rape and four misdemeanor charges of communicating with minors for immoral purposes.

In return, the prosecution dropped additional charges of statutory rape and assault.

"We dropped those charges to save the victims from having to go to trial on the charges Fontenot contested," said Deputy Prosecutor Virginia Greaney.

Greaney said Fontenot faces a possible sentence of five years in prison if a Spokane County judge gives him the maximum penalty during a sentencing hearing July 17.

"We will not make a recommendation until we see the pre-sentencing report just before that," Greaney said. Police investigators determined the priest had some sort of sexual involvement with at least 10 boys ranging up to age 16.

The rape charge carries an average penalty of one to three months and a maximum of five years. The misdemeanor charges each carry a maximum penalty of one year in county jail and a $5,000 fine.

Fontenot remains free on his own recognizance, which includes a stipulation he live at a treatment center run by a Catholic order in Cherry Valley, Calif., pending sentencing.

The Spokane charges mostly involve teenagers who said Fontenot made advances to them while they were patients at the Nancy Reagan CareUnit, a drug and alcohol treatment center at Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane. Fontenot was employed as a counselor at the unit from July 1985 until January 1986.

Fontenot also was suspended from his religious duties in the diocese of Lafayette, La., in 1983 amid allegations he molested young boys. The priest and the Louisiana diocese have been named in a multi-million-dollar lawsuit brought by the parents of one of the alleged victims.

Following his suspension in Louisiana, Fontenot was sent by the diocese to a treatment center in Massachusetts, but he aparently left there and moved to Spokane in late 1984.


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