Ex-priest completes sentence

The 83-year-old Oahu resident
was set to leave jail yesterday

Associated Press

DETROIT >> A retired 83-year-old Roman Catholic priest who admitted to molesting at least a dozen boys going as far back as the 1940s has completed a 30-day jail sentence and was scheduled for release.

Robert Burkholder, a resident of Leeward Oahu, pleaded no contest Nov. 1 in a Wayne County court to two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a 13-year-old boy.

In August, Burkholder was charged with engaging in sexual conduct with the boy while the pair vacationed in Hawaii in 1986. The trip was an eighth-grade graduation present to the boy, prosecutors said.

A no-contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

He has been held in an isolated cell at the county jail in Hamtramck, Wayne County Sheriff Robert Ficano told the Detroit Free Press.

Burkholder was to be released yesterday. He will be on probation for five years and would have to register as a sex offender in Michigan if he remains in the state.

"It was an extraordinarily light sentence," said David Clohessy, a co-founder of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, adding that the church scandal has resulted in few convictions or imprisonments to date.

"No matter how sympathetically we may feel toward an elderly man, he can still commit crimes and hurt innocent children."

Wayne County Prosecutor Michael Duggan has branded Burkholder "one of the worst pedophiles we have ever had in this state."

"It's a multidimensional situation," said Irving Tukel, Burkholder's attorney. "As sad as it is, there are many positive things the man did over a long period of time, and those are the people who've been in touch with the priest."

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

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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