Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Accused priest could get 100-year sentence

MESA, Arizona - A former west Valley Catholic priest faces more than 100 years in prison if jurors decide to convict him of molesting six boys in Arizona after a monthlong trial in a Mesa courtroom.

Rev. Paul LeBrun, 49, already stripped of his priestly duties, preyed upon vulnerable young boys whose parents were abusive, divorced or abandoned by their fathers in Arizona and Indiana, prosecutor Suzanne Cohen said.

"He was basically a wolf in sheep's clothing," Cohen said during closing arguments Monday. "Everything he did was to get close to these little boys. Everything he did was to abuse these little boys." advertisement

But defense attorney Ken Hulls said the victims, which included four more boys in Indiana, didn't come forward for decades and are motivated by greed.

Hulls said four victims have filed civil suits, that some are convicted felons, and that one offered a cellmate a $500,000 bribe to falsely testify that LeBrun confessed to the molestations.

Larry Ponte refused the bribe and testified instead as LeBrun's only witness, saying that the victim hoped to make millions after he was "supposedly molested" by LeBrun.

Huls also said at least three of LeBrun's accusers have felony records. But Cohen said Ponte also has a criminal record and jurors must decide who is more credible.

Cohen said LeBrun's conduct resulted in one victim turning to gangs and drugs, but none of them blame LeBrun for all of their problems.

"It was a decade of abuse, 10 little boys who gave their trust, their love, their faith," she said. "He not only scarred them as boys, he scarred them as men."

LeBrun is accused of abusing west Valley boys ranging from 11 to 16 between 1986 and 1991 at St. John Vianney Church in Avondale and Blessed Sacrament Church in Tolleson.

The priest, who has a gray goatee and glasses, faces seven counts of sexual conduct with a minor and five counts of child molestation.

Jurors also can consider the testimony of four victims from Indiana, who ranged in age from 9 to 13, between 1979 and 1986, when LeBrun was transferred to Arizona.

LeBrun cannot be convicted for crimes committed in Indiana, but jurors can use the evidence to determine if he has "a character trait that predisposes him to commit the crimes charged."

See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.

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