NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A New Jersey priest faced a judge in court on Tuesday to learn his punishment after he spent donations from parishioners on fancy vacations, a car and even a boat, prosecutors said.
Monsignor Patrick Brown didn’t want to talk as he walked out of federal court, just after finding out that he will have to spend five months in prison, reports CBS 2’s Christine Sloan.
Prosecutors said Msgr. Brown took thousands of dollars from parishioners and spent it on a lavish lifestyle.
Authorities said Msgr. Brown collected money for the needy at Saint Vincent de Paul Church, placed the donations in hidden bank accounts, and then spent the cash of vacations to Hawaii and Ireland, shopping sprees at the mall, and tuition for nieces and nephews.
“We believe in Monsignor Brown,” one woman said. “It’s a travesty.”
Supporters who packed the courtroom said the monsignor gave the money to the needy, like Carl Schlegeo.
“He personally helped me several times, with my property taxes – I couldn’t pay those, he raised the money for those,” Schlegeo said. “I personally think that the sentencing was unfair. I think he should have gotten just probation.”
Suspended priest Father Robert Hoatson, who works with victims of abuse, said the sentence sends a message.
“I think the judge hit the nail on the head – what he basically said was this man abused his position as a priest and he bought his popularity, and he bought his fame,” he said.
In court, defense attorneys said Brown had only pleaded guilty to tax evasion. The monsignor told the judge that he couldn’t forgive himself.
Monsignor Brown, who spent years preaching to prisoners, has 10 days to surrender to authorities and begin his own five-month sentence as an inmate.
Hundreds of supporters, including nuns, sent letters to the judge saying Brown was a good man who used donations to help them. The Paterson Diocese said the monsignor will need everyone’s prayers.
Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below.