Archive for Saturday, March 25, 2006

Despite plea deal, state wants priest to remain confined

March 25, 2006


— When he admitted five years ago that he had molested altar boys in the 1980s, a former Catholic priest did so under an agreement that the state would not seek to keep him confined after he did his time in prison.

But now that 76-year-old Robert Larson is nearing release, Kansas Atty. Gen. Phill Kline is moving ahead with an effort to keep him in state custody as a sexual predator after all.

Kline filed a petition Thursday in Harvey County District Court, asking that Larson be designated a sexual predator, which would enable the state to send him to Larned State Hospital for continued treatment and keep him there indefinitely.

Matt Treaster, who was the Harvey County prosecutor at the time, signed the plea agreement stating that Kansas would not seek Larson's continued confinement under the Violent Predator Act. But Kline maintains the power to make such agreements rests with his office.

Larson had been scheduled for release from the Lansing state prison on March 29. But Kline arranged with the former priest's lawyer, Dan Monnat, to have him remain in state custody until the sexual predator petition is decided.

To keep Larson in indefinite custody, the state must prove not only that the plea agreement was invalid but also that Larson is not stable enough to return to society and needs further treatment.

Kline said he has evidence indicating Larson is likely to offend again.

Kline said similar cases have taken about 60 days, and Monnat said he expects the matter to be resolved quickly.

"After all, 76-year-old Robert Larson has not committed an offense in at least 18 years, has been through extensive treatment at a renowned treatment facility and has been a model prisoner," Monnat said.

The offenses for which Larson was convicted took place while he was pastor at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Newton and involved three altar boys and a 19-year-old. His bishop removed him from the parish in 1988 after several allegations of sexual abuse, and he was sent for treatment in Maryland.

Larson, eventually stripped of the title and responsibilities of a priest, was retired and living in Willoughby, Ohio, when the charges were brought against him. He pleaded guilty to one felony count of indecent liberties with a child and three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery.


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