Saturday, May 23, 2009

PA: 'Detestable' conduct nets priest 3-6 yrs.

Archbishop Ryan's ex-prez, accused of sexual abuse, convicted of thievery

ARTHUR BASELICE JR. stood before a judge yesterday trying to find the words to describe the Rev. Charles Newman, the former president of Archbishop Ryan High School, whom authorities contend sexually abused Baselice's son and paid the student with stolen money to keep him quiet.

"The words 'sick,' 'detestable,' 'filthy' . . . are inadequate," Baselice said after displaying a photo of his son, Arthur Baselice III, who died of a drug overdose at age 28 on Nov. 30, 2006.

He then called Newman a "pedophile" and a "wicked disciple of the devil."

After an emotional hearing, Common Pleas Judge Rose Marie DeFino-Nastasi sentenced Newman to three to six years in state prison, followed by 10 years' probation, on charges of theft and forgery for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school and his religious order.

He was not charged with any sex-abuse offenses - the statute of limitations in effect at the time had expired - but authorities contend that Newman, 58, started abusing Baselice when he was a 16-year-old junior at Ryan. They also claim that the abuse continued for years after Baselice graduated in 1996 and that Newman gave Baselice thousands of dollars to buy drugs and to serve as hush money.

Prosecutors contended that Newman stole more than $900,000 from Archbishop Ryan and his Wisconsin-based Franciscan Friars order from July 2002 - when he became president of the school, on Academy Road near Chalfont Drive in the Northeast - to Nov. 20, 2003, when he was fired. According to the District Attorney's Office's grand-jury report, Newman stole $331,916 from the school, putting about 56 percent of that amount into an account held by the Franciscan Friars. Newman also had cashed 111 of 223 unauthorized checks, totaling $552,280, from the Franciscan bank account. The Franciscan Friars no longer operate Ryan, the largest school in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

Newman raided both funds to give Baselice at least $54,000.

Baselice's parents, who were in court with daughter Ashleigh and other family members, hurled harsh words at Newman, blaming him for their son's death.

Baselice's mother, Elaine, told the judge: "He [Newman] plied my teenage son with alcohol and drugs so that Arthur could be more easily abused. . . . Newman had me believe my son was full of demons. Standing in the courtroom today, I am faced with the true demon!"

Deputy District Attorney Charles Gallagher asked the judge for a sentence of seven to 14 years in state prison.

Defense attorney Frank DeSimone contended that authorities have "no proof beyond a reasonable doubt" that his client had been involved in any sexual abuse, and said Newman admitted having sex with Baselice, but he insisted that it occurred only after Baselice became an adult.

Upon hearing that, Elaine Baselice cried out "Bulls---!"

Later, she yelled another retort, then walked out in tears.

DeSimone contended some of the money Newman stole was double-counted since Newman put some of the Ryan money into the Franciscan Friars' account.

Gallagher added: "We'll never know the bottom line" of how much Newman actually stole. Pointing to Newman, he said: "He knows where the money is!"

Newman had pleaded guilty in March to two counts of theft and one count of forgery. The judge yesterday pressed Newman on what he did with the money.

Newman, dressed in a short-sleeved, red button-down shirt and black pants, said he knew that giving Baselice money was wrong, but alleged that the money was for Baselice's health and not for drugs. He said the rest of it went to parents who needed tuition help and to parishioners. He apologized to the Archdiocese and to the Baselices.

The judge was not satisfied with Newman's answers. She called his explanations "sorely lacking" and "bizarre," noting that if he really wanted to help parents and parishioners, he could have done so by being aboveboard.

"What you were doing is stealing money," she said. "I don't believe you were doing it for good whatsoever."

The "bottom line," the judge said, is that Newman was stealing money for "self-gratification."

Michael McArdle, Archbishop Ryan's president, said Newman's actions took a "terrible toll" on the school.

William F. Coyle, a retired lawyer, spoke on Newman's behalf, asking the judge to consider "the good that he has done in his life."

Under a state law effective last year, Newman is eligible for an alternative minimum sentence under the Recidivism Risk Reduction Incentive program. As such, he could be paroled after 27 months in prison.

Newman was taken into custody right after sentencing. The sentence exceeded state guidelines.

Afterward, as DeSimone told reporters he thought the sentence was "fair," an aunt of Baselice III yelled out that she hoped Newman gets treated in prison the way he abused Baselice when he was alive.

Outside the Criminal Justice Center, Elaine Baselice called Newman "the devil in sheep's clothing," adding, "I wish he got a million years, if that was possible."

Although the Legislature has extended the statute of limitations in sex-abuse cases, Arthur Baselice Jr. said he hopes that lawmakers will get rid of it.

Gallagher was "gratified that the court saw through the masquerade and the untruths" of Newman.

Retiring next week after 35 years in the D.A.'s office, Gallagher has kept a photo of Baselice III on his desk. "I'll be able, finally, to put it to rest," he said. *

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