NEWTON A former priest pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges stemming from the alleged sexual abuse of altar boys more than a decade ago.
Earlier this week, Robert K. Larson was charged in Harvey County District Court with four counts of indecent liberties with a child and one count of sexual battery.
The charges stemmed from allegations made by men who say they were abused by Larson while he was the priest at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newton during the 1980s.
Larson, now 70 and living in Ohio, served in several parishes in the Diocese of Wichita for 30 years. After several allegations of abuse, he was stripped of his title and duties in 1988 and sent to Maryland for treatment.
His lawyer, Dan Monnat of Wichita, said Larson will fight the charges. Monnat declined further comment, citing his client's need for a fair trial.
Harvey County Atty. Matt Treaster said both sides differed as to whether the statute of limitations prevented Larson's prosecution.
The charges result from an investigation launched after several men went public in August with allegations that Larson molested them.
Four men told The Wichita Eagle that Larson sexually abused them or touched them inappropriately when the men were boys in Larson's pastoral care.
In the weeks following the newspaper's report, several more men came forward, claiming to be victims of abuse by Larson.
Sedgwick County has launched a criminal investigation of its own, but no charges have resulted.
Following the allegations of abuse, Wichita Bishop Eugene Gerber issued a public apology to all victims of abuse by clergy and to victims' families.