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Ex-Priest Pleads Guilty To Abuse

Jun 23, 2004 | The Courier-Journal

A retired priest, shackled at the wrists and ankles, shuffled into a Jefferson Circuit courtroom yesterday morning and acknowledged to a judge that he orally sodomized a 14-year-old boy nearly three decades ago.

Under a plea agreement, the Rev. James Hargadon, who had worked in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, pleaded guilty to sodomizing Todd D. Robertson in 1976 in a church rectory and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

It was the second time in a month that Hargadon, 76, received an eight-year sentence on sexual abuse charges.

In April, a Grayson Circuit Court jury convicted him of sexually molesting Lawrence Thompson and John Kaelin at a camp on Rough River during a summer 30 years ago when the boys were working in a garden at St. Polycarp Church in Pleasure Ridge Park, where Hargadon was pastor. He was sentenced in that case in May.

Hargadon will serve the sentences concurrently and could be eligible for parole in about a year and a half. If he had been found guilty at a jury trial in Jefferson County, Hargadon could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

As part of his plea agreement, Hargadon will not ask for probation.

Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, Hargadon did not face his victim during the brief hearing yesterday. He answered all of Jefferson Circuit Judge Steve Mershon's questions quickly and directly, and spoke little otherwise.

Prosecutor Carol Cobb said yesterday's hearing provided "some measure of justice" for the victim and sent a message to the community that the commonwealth "will prosecute these cases."

Hargadon is the third priest from the archdiocese to be convicted since 2002 on sexual abuse charges. The others are Louis Miller and Daniel Clark.

Cobb said the plea agreement was good for everyone involved because the victim and his family did not want to go through a trial and a possible appeal. Yesterday's plea cannot be appealed, she said.

The archdiocese said in a statement that Hargadon's plea and sentence are important for his victims, the Catholic Church and the community.

"We hope that this resolution will continue the process of healing for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and for the church," the statement said.

A Louisville native, Hargadon was ordained in 1955 and served in several assignments, including as pastor of three parishes: St. Polycarp, St. Edward in Jeffersontown and St. Francis Xavier in Mount Washington.

He retired in 1998 but continued to perform part-time parish duties until 2002. He was serving as senior associate pastor at St. Patrick Church when he retired after having surgery.

Hargadon was one of eight priests permanently removed from public ministry in 2002 by Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly after abuse allegations had surfaced.


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