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Priest Gets 30 Days In Jail On Sex Charges

Nov 2, 2002 | AP Robert Burkholder, a Roman Catholic priest who has admitted molesting at least a dozen boys going as far back as the 1940s, pleaded no contest Friday to a pair of sex charges and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

The 83-year-old resident of Leeward Oahu, Hawaii, pleaded no contest to two counts of criminal sexual conduct involving a 13-year-old boy. He was charged in August under a provision in Michigan's statute of limitations.

Burkholder is accused of molesting the boy while the pair vacationed in Hawaii in 1986. The trip was an eighth-grade graduation present to the boy, prosecutors said.

Along with the jail time, Burkholder was placed on five years' probation and must register as a sex offender. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan has branded Burkholder ''one of the worst pedophiles we have ever had in this state.'' Duggan says Burkholder molested boys as young as 11.

Burkholder has been banned from wearing the collar and calling himself a priest.

''The archdiocese cooperated with civil authorities in this matter and respects the results of the process that followed. And while there is resolution of the case at hand, the archdiocese recognizes this is a sad and difficult time for everyone involved,'' Ned McGrath, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said in a statement.

Three other men who once served as priests in the Detroit area also were charged in August. They are: Jason E. Sigler, who now lives in New Mexico; Harry Benjamin, of Vienna, Va.; and Edward Olszewski, of Key Largo, Fla.

Burkholder's attorney has said his client has dementia. Friday, Duggan said his office believed that claim was a ''sham.''

In an interview in August, Burkholder acknowledged misconduct in the 1940s and 1950s.

''It's a bunch of nonsense, because the thing happened a long, long time ago and it's been atoned for,'' Burkholder said then.

Of the 13-year-old boy, Burkholder told The Detroit News: ''We just got carried away.

''He might have been lonely. And priests are lonely persons, too. We need friendships, and kids love priests. I weakened. I was looking for affection,'' he said.

Duggan used an exception in the old statute of limitations law that allows charges to be brought if the suspect left the state before the 6-year statute of limitations ran out.

Assistant prosecutor Doug Baker said it's possible that plea agreements could be reached with the other three men charged.

At least 30 Catholic priests in Michigan have been removed, suspended or have left their duties since Jan. 1 amid sexual abuse or misconduct allegations. Some of the cases are under review. At least 17 of the cases involved a minor.

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