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Local Priest To Plead Guilty To Child Abuse

Sep 26, 2002 | Savannah Morning News

A Catholic priest from Savannah jailed in Maryland since July is expected to plead guilty to molesting two brothers in the 1970s.

"It's a wonderful result," Douglas F. Gansler, State's Attorney for Montgomery County, Md., said Tuesday.

"These are difficult cases to prove. They occurred a long time ago and rarely is there any physical evidence."

The Rev. Wayland Yoder Brown, 59, who became a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Savannah in 1977, may make the prosecution's task easier by admitting to the abuse.

He is expected to plead guilty in November to one count of child abuse against the older brother and one count of battery against the younger brother, Gansler said. The battery incident reportedly occurred at the boy's home in Gaithersburg, Md., while Brown was a seminarian.

The felony count of child abuse carries a maximum 15-year penalty.

Neither Brown's attorney, Paul Kemp of Rockville, Md., nor a diocesan spokesperson could be reached for comment.

In March, a 41-year-old man reported to the Montgomery County State's Attorney's office that he had been abused sexually by a seminarian when he was about 13. The seminarian also had abused his brother, who was about 12, reports show.

An investigation led to Brown's arrest at his Savannah home on June 26. He had not been in active ministry since 1988 because of personality issues.

"Everyone has the right to accept responsibility for their acts and we're elated with this outcome," Gansler said.

"More importantly, we're saving the victims the trauma of a public trial of something that happened 30 years ago. The victims were wounded emotionally and spiritually and only recently have been able to come forward."

Brown remains jailed in the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville, Md., on $750,000 bond.

Gansler said he was unsure the type of punishment he will recommend and will wait until a pre-sentence investigation is finished.

He said the judge may consider Brown's age, his otherwise conviction-free record, the fact the crimes occurred decades ago and that he's accepting responsibility before being indicted.

"We will be asking for a period of incarceration," Gansler said. "What that will be we don't know."

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