Priest Given 25 Years For Child Sexual Abuse
P.G. Judge May Reconsider Imprisonment

By Keith Harriston
Washington Post
December 23, 1986

A former priest at St. John Baptist de LaSalle Roman Catholic Church in Chillum pleaded guilty yesterday in Prince George's Circuit Court to five counts of sexual child abuse and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

However, Circuit Judge Robert H. Mason said that he might reconsider the sentence he imposed on the Rev. Peter McCutcheon within 90 days and suspend all but one year of the term, which would be served in the County Detention Center's house arrest program.

McCutcheon, 34, was charged with sexually abusing three teen-agers in five incidents in 1981 through 1985. The youths, all males, are not members of the St. John's parish, and none attended the parish school when the offenses occurred.

"It's very important for [the victims and their families] to see you walk out of here in handcuffs on the way to jail," Mason told McCutcheon. "It's also important for you to feel like you've paid some price for what you've done."

The judge's sentencing followed about five hours of emotional testimony about McCutcheon, with the parents of the victims asking Mason to incarcerate McCutcheon for "manipulating and confusing" their sons and with doctors and counselors stressing that he is a pedophiliac, alcoholic and drug abuser who needs therapy.

McCutcheon kept his head lowered during most of the hearing, but he looked up to tell Mason that he was "deeply, deeply sorry and very ashamed" about what he did. "I hurt these boys, I hurt the church," he said. "I feel bitterly guilty about the things I've done. I know there is no way I can make up for them."

The mother of one victim told Mason that her family has been devastated by McCutcheon's actions and that she and her son have had extended psychiatric counseling as a result. "I think [McCutcheon] needs a lot of help," she said. "But I also think he needs to pay for what he has done. I don't think he should be out in society."

Msgr. Joaquin Bazan, pastor of St. John's, said he noticed that McCutcheon had a drinking problem in late December 1984 and confronted him about it in January 1985. "It was like he was two people," Bazan said. "On the one hand he was generous, then there was bizarre behavior."

Mason said that if he suspends McCutcheon's sentence, it will be on the condition that McCutcheon refrain from participating in groups that attract children, that he continue taking a drug that depresses sexual energy, that he seek counseling and that he pay for counseling for the victims and their families.

McCutcheon, who was ordained in 1979, worked mostly with the elderly in the parish and was not involved in the church school. He worked with tenants in the Chillum Heights apartment complex, helping them get legal assistance and relocate when 119 families were evicted in 1985.

William J. Rowan III, one of McCutcheon's attorneys, said McCutcheon has been relieved of his duties as a priest since his arrest in June. Rowan said the church will decide at a later date whether McCutcheon will be allowed to resume those duties.


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