January 25, 2006

Priest Evades Possible Sex Offender Status by Pleading Guilty to a Lesser Crime

The Sun

By LAUREN ELKIES - Staff Reporter of the Sun
January 25, 2006

A Brooklyn priest charged with a series of sexual abuse counts that could have landed him in prison for up to 25 years and required him to register with the state as a sexual offender managed to evade that fate by pleading guilty to a lesser crime of endangering the welfare of a child.

"People register when they're convicted of a sex offense," not when they are charged with one, the head of the Brooklyn district attorney's sex crimes unit, Rhonnie Jaus, said.

The Reverend Joseph Byrns, a 63-year-old Brooklyn Catholic priest on administrative leave, was initially charged with two counts of sexual conduct against a child and 20 counts of sexual abuse for allegedly abusing a boy six times in a church rectory between 2000 and 2002, Ms. Jaus said. After a jury was unable to reach a verdict, Mr. Byrns pleaded guilty Monday to endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to three years' probation and is required to attend a Brooklyn sexual offender treatment program.

Such a stroke of good fortune is not the norm, Ms. Jaus said. "Most sex offenders do plead guilty to sex offenses" and therefore must register, she said.

Posted by kshaw at January 25, 2006 08:39 AM