Rev. Olszewski, 70, was found guilty on 4 counts

Priest gets probation in molestation

Rev. Olszewski, 70, was found guilty on 4 counts

January 31, 2003


The Rev. Edward Olszewski, a Catholic priest convicted by a jury in December of molesting a Detroit youth in the 1970s, was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation.

In imposing the sentence, Wayne County Circuit Judge Diane Hathaway said she believes Olszewski "poses absolutely no danger to society."

Olszewski, 70, was convicted on four counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor after Albert Green, now 44 and a Seattle resident, testified that the priest molested him repeatedly while Green lived at St. Cecilia rectory while his mother was ill in the early 1970s. Olszewski was acquitted of four counts of sodomy.

The priest could have faced up to 10 years in prison on the conviction.

Hathaway noted that she read more than 100 letters of support for Olszewski that described his many accomplishments and work as a pastor in the last 30 years.

Three other men who worked as Detroit-area priests received jail time after plea bargains on sexual molestation charges from decades ago.

David Clohessy, cofounder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), decried the probation sentence as a mistake and an injustice.

"I pray that she is right, but in my heart and in my stomach, I just firmly believe that she couldn't be more wrong," Clohessy said. "In almost every case, these charismatic abusers rally parishioners around them. That's just the standard M.O. of a child molester."

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Lisa Lindsey pressed for jail time. She asked the judge to hear a statement by Richard Kelly of Detroit, who then said Olszewski had abused him once in the mid-1960s on an overnight boat outing. Olszewski's attorney denied anything improper occurred.

"Some period of incarceration is necessary . . . to get everybody out of denial about this man," Kelly said in court.

Lindsey later said Olszewski's sentence was too lenient.

"I wished he'd been sentenced to jail in the same manner as the other priests, because there was another victim who came forward," Lindsey said, referring to Kelly. "I think the judge was swayed by the overwhelming support he had."

Hathaway said Olszewski may serve his probation in Florida, where he has lived since 1976. He also is barred from initiating any contact or conversation with people under 17 unless another adult is present. The priest has to participate in a sex offender therapy program and be registered in Michigan as a sex offender, the judge ruled.

Hathaway also instructed Olszewski to develop a presentation for Catholic seminarians about proper and improper behavior and "how not to put yourself in any situation" that could lead to an abuse allegation.

"The purpose is to prevent this from happening again," she said.

Olszewski moved to Florida in 1976 and was most recently pastor of St. Justin the Martyr Church in Key Largo. He was removed from public ministry in March by the Archdiocese of Miami after Green's accusations became public and remains on administrative leave.

The Olszewski case was one of four convictions won by Wayne County prosecutors in cases where the clergy abuse complaints were decades old. But prosecutors could charge Olszewski and three other men who had worked as priests because the men left Michigan before the 6-year statute of limitations had expired on their cases.

The Rev. Robert Burkholder served a 30-day jail sentence in the Dickerson Detention Facility in November. Jason Sigler, a former priest, is serving a one-year sentence. Harry Benjamin, an ex-priest, accepted a plea bargain to serve one year in jail beginning March 3 or 4.

S. Allen Early, Olszewski's attorney, said probation was appropriate. He said he's appealing the guilty verdict because of alleged juror misconduct.

Early filed a motion asking for a new trial, saying jurors have said that one juror began crying during deliberations as she revealed she had been sexually abused. Early said the juror did not disclose that during jury selection, which compromised Olszewski's right to an impartial jury.

Hathaway said he will hear arguments on the motion on March 13.

Contact PATRICIA MONTEMURRI at 313-223-4538 or [email protected].

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