March 11, 2005

Priest jailed for sexual abuse


by Jill Murphy
Staff Writer

March 10, 2005

Former priest Frank Benham was sentenced last week to 18 months in jail for sexually abusing two young members of two county parishes in the late 1970s.

"He has been free for the past 25 years while I have been carrying my cross," Matthew Ponton, a victim, said during Benham's sentencing hearing. Ponton met Benham as a teenager at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Beltsville.

Statements read in court by the victims and their mothers convinced county Circuit Court Judge Michelle Hotten to mandate the maximum sentence allowed under the plea agreement struck with the State's Attorney's Office in December.

The victims agreed to the plea bargain, which suspended all but 18 months of Benham's possible 20-year sentence, to be followed by three years of probation. The agreement also required Benham to register on the national sex offenders' list and to abstain from contact with anyone under the age of 18, state's attorney spokesman Ramon Korionoff disclosed.

Posted by kshaw at March 11, 2005 09:27 AM