March 09, 2005

Priest gets 18 months for assault - Judge could have given man 20 years

Washington Examiner

Examiner Staff Writer
Published: Friday, March 4, 2005 9:29 PM EST

A Pennsylvania homemaker fought back tears Friday morning shortly before her former Maryland priest was sentenced to serve 18 months in prison for molesting her as a teenager and sexually abusing a Maryland boy nearly two decades ago.

"I feel as if my soul was raped and that my youth was entirely stolen from me, the 43-year-old homemaker said during her victim impact statement before the sentencing in Upper Marlboro.

Prince George's County Circuit Court Judge Michele Hotten suspended all but 18 months of Francis A. Benham's of 20 year sentence for sexually abusing and sodomizing the two victims as part of a plea agreement in which Benham agreed to forgo a trial and pleaded guilty. Benham, 68, will be eligible for parole after serving six months.

The woman said the abuse took place between 1977 and 1979 when Benham served as a priest at Holy Spirit Parish in Forestville. Benham was removed from the Holy Spirit Parish in June, 1979 after the woman, then a teenager, reported he sexually abused her. He was reassigned to St Nicholas Parish in Zainesville, Ohio later that year.

Posted by kshaw at March 9, 2005 08:26 AM