83-Year-Old Former Priest to Face Sex Abuse Charges in Michigan

By David Waite
Honolulu Advertiser
September 18, 2002

An 83-year-old former priest waived his right to extradition proceedings in Circuit Court yesterday and will likely be taken to Michigan within the next two weeks to face charges that he sexually assaulted a 13-year-old boy there in 1986.

Robert N. Burkholder was one of four current or former Roman Catholic priests with the Archdiocese of Detroit who were charged with criminal sexual conduct.

A warrant issued by a Michigan court accuses Burkholder of two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.

Burkholder has denied the allegations, calling them "ridiculous and cruel."

Circuit Judge Reynaldo Graulty yesterday questioned Burkholder for about 10 minutes and ruled that he was able to understand the proceedings against him and to assist in his defense.

Burkholder's lawyer, Daniel Pagliarini, told Graulty at the start of the hearing that Burkholder did not intend to contest the extradition proceedings.

Dressed in a blue and white jogging outfit and wracked with shivers, Burkholder had difficulty signing the documents giving up his right to full extradition proceedings.

Pagliarini said Burkholder had been held in an extremely cold cell in the court building throughout the morning while awaiting the hearing.

Burkholder turned up his hearing aid and leaned on each of Graulty's words to try to understand the questions he was being asked. He turned to Pagliarini several times for clarification.

Burkholder told Graulty he knew he was in court and said he believed the date to be Sept. 22.

Although Graulty ruled that Burkholder appeared to understand the nature of the court proceedings, Pagliarini told the judge Burkholder suffers from dementia.

"He is not cognizant of time and place," Pagliarini said. "He has moments when he is completely lucid and the next moment, he does not know what day of the week it is or what the date is."

Graulty set bail at $5,000 and Burkholder was released from custody about 40 minutes later.

Honolulu police detective Jerry Trinidad, who has been working on the case, told Graulty that Michigan officials would be in Honolulu within 15 days to escort Burkholder back to face the charges.

If convicted, he would face up to 15 years in prison.

Burkholder moved to Hawaii in 1981 after serving in the Archdiocese of Detroit for 34 years. He began working as a military chaplain at Schofield Barracks in 1982 and held Masses at St. Elizabeth in 'Aiea, but was not a parish priest and never joined the Hawaii diocese, according to the Catholic Diocese of Hawaii.

City Deputy Prosecutor Russell Uehara said Burkholder left Hawaii at some point and returned to Michigan, where he stayed until 1989. Burkholder has been living in Waianae.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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