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Priest Is First To Do Jail Time For Abuse

Nov 1, 2002 | WWW.DETNOW.COM The sins of one former Roman Catholic priest have landed him behind bars. Robert Burkholder becomes the first priest from the Detroit area to be sentenced to jail for sexually abusing a child. Prosecutors have called Burkholder the worst sexual predator among priests in this area, but in spite of his crimes, Burkholder will spend only a month in jail.

Authorities say that 30 days for the 82-year-old priest is equivalent to several years for a younger man. In addition to his jail sentence, he will also serve five years probation. He must register as a sex offender, and he is to have no contact with children under the age of 16.

Authorities say 82-year-old Burkholder is the of the worst pedophiles in state history, and now he will pay for his crimes. The former priest will spend the next 30 days locked up in the Wayne County Jail.

"You abuse a kid in Wayne County, no matter how many years it takes us and no matter how old you are, you will be made to pay," said Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan.

Father Burkholder will serve his jail time for assaulting a 13-year-old altar boy in 1986. At the time, he was at St. Robert Bellarmine parish in Redford Township. He convinced the boy's parents to allow their son to go on a trip with him as an eighth grade graduation gift. During that trip, he repeatedly molested the boy.

Duggan calls Burkholder a child molester with a collar, and says this case was personal.

"He was a priest at my church and at my school when I was a student at St. Michael's. This one has been personal to me from the beginning. I have personally known a number of the victims," Duggan said.

Duggan says the Archdiocese of Detroit helped bring this case to the close. They turned over a document in which Father Burkholder admitted to molesting about a dozen young boys over a 40-year time span.

"We have talked to a a number of the victims, including this morning talked to one who was molested in 1952 who was just overwhelmed with the fact that after all these years, this individual is being held accountable," Duggan said.

The prosecutor's office has brought charges against four priests. This is their first conviction and they say they have three very strong cases still to go.

They also say the archdiocese has aggressively been removing priests who are abusive of children. Prosecutor Duggan says he feels very good that very soon he will be able to make the announcement that the Catholic Church in Detroit has a clean bill of health.

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