Priest pleads guilty to sex abuse charges

Friday, January 3, 2003

LAS VEGAS -- A Roman Catholic priest pleaded guilty Thursday to lewdness and abuse charges involving five teenage boys at his parish.

The Rev. Mark Roberts, 51, will be stripped of his priesthood and probably get three years' probation when he is sentenced March 10.

He was removed as pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Church last January after being accused of hitting, fondling and photographing the boys, ages 16 to 18, between April 1999 and February 2002. He pleaded guilty to lewdness, child abuse and neglect.

Under a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped two charges of using boys to produce pornographic photos, felonies that could have drawn five years in prison each.

Roberts acknowledged instructing the teens in apparent penance rituals during which they were made to undress and stand with their arms out as if they were on a cross.

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