Priest sentenced on molestation charge

Case involved alleged ritual beatings and torture

Associated Press/April 19, 2004

Cheyenne, Wyoming -- A priest accused of molesting a teenage boy has pleaded no contest in the case, but argues that he committed the acts in question for spiritual reasons and not sexual gratification, his lawyer said Sunday.

Anthony Jablonowski, 69, was sentenced Thursday to between 15 months and seven years in prison for one count of taking indecent, immodest or immoral liberties with a minor, his attorney Dallas Laird said. The amount of time he serves will depend on his behavior in prison.

The victim, now in his late 30s, stepped forward recently with allegations that Jablonowski had molested him at least once in the early 1980s at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Guernsey, about 100 miles north of Cheyenne. He was 17 at the time.

During an investigation, authorities learned that Jablonowski regularly took men to the church basement, asking them to strip naked before they were gagged, blindfolded and hung upside down from the ceiling, Platte County prosecutor Eric Alden told The Denver Post in Sunday's editions.

According to Alden, the men's genitals were manipulated to induce pain while they prayed. He could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Laird said his client could not talk about the rituals, citing an oath of confidentiality concerning prayer and confession.

The activities were not sexual, and were tied to a legitimate practice of penance and redemptive suffering, Laird said. Several people testified they found the prayers spiritual -- not sexual -- in nature.

"There are certain things that happen which are not sexual but could be interpreted that way," Laird said.

According to the Catholic Diocese of Cheyenne, Jablonowski was a priest in Wyoming for about 10 years. He was serving at a monastery in Ohio when the molestation charges surfaced, Laird said.

Jablonowski, whose priestly faculties were revoked after the allegations surfaced, remained at the Platte County jail Sunday. It was unclear whether he would be transferred to a state corrections facility because of safety concerns, Laird said.

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