Ronald W. Clouser, who confessed to being Northern Delaware's "Gentleman Bandit" and cleared a Roman Catholic priest on trial in the case, will be suspended from his job with the U.S. Postal Service in Wilmington.

Meanwhile, the priest, the Rev. Bernard T. Pagano, relaxed with a swim and a sauna near his home in South St. George's Del., yesterday and said he is thinking about suing the state for false arrest.

In another development, the prosecutor in the Pagano case disclosed yesterday that Clouser apparently tried to clear Pagano five months ago by making anonymous telephone calls to a Wilmington newspaper editor.

The Associated Press quoted the newspaperman, associate editor Harry F. Themal of the News-journal, as confirming that he had several phone conversations with a man who insisted he was the bandit and that Pagano should be freed.

Themal said he passed the information on to the authorities but was never able to convince the anonymous caller to identify himself or meet face to face.

Henry Manelski, second in command at the Wilmington post office where Clouser worked as an industrial engineering coordinator, confirmed Clouser would be placed on leave without pay within a week.

He had been on sick leave from the $23,500-a-year post since May.

Clouser had pleaded guilty to three other armed robberies in Pennsylvania last summer, but Manelski said the Postal Service wasn't aware of that and therefore took no action.

Clouser said he took up robbing small businesses because he was having trouble making his $125-a-week court-ordered support payments to his estranged wife.

Manelski said the post office was following "general procedure" in suspending an employe who is found responsible for a criminal act or has had a "serious charge" placed against him.

Saul Segan, Clouser's attorney, said his client would appeal the suspension.

"This is indicative of the kind of risk [Clouser] subjected himself to" when he pleaded guilty Thursday to three armed robbery charges for which Pagano was on trial. Pagano had been assistant pastor of St. Mary's Refuge of Sinners Church in Cambridge.

"This is the way bureaucracy rewards someone who's done right," said Segan, referring to Clouser's dramatic confession that he -- not Pagano -- was responsible for the "Gentleman Bandit" crimes. Pagano's trial was in its third week, and the prosecution had just rested its case when the judge announced on Monday another man had confessed.

Clouser said he knew Pagano was charged with the robberies last February, but did not come forward then because he was involved in a protracted custody battle with his wife over their three children.

Clouser, an employe of the post office for 17 years, has admitted committing two other robberies and one attempted robbery. Pagano was charged with and three other Delaware robberies that occurred after Pagano was arrested. The state attorney general's office, however, agreed as part of a plea bargain to prosecute Clouser only on three charges.

Clouser faces a maximum prison sentence in Delaware of 30 years.

Clouser, released on bond, could not be reached for comment. He has requested not to be disturbed for a few days as he recovers from the recent whirlwind of events.

Pagano, meanwhile, said he is considering suing the state for false arrest, but not out of revenge. Rather, he said, the suit would be designed to change the state's criminal justice system to prevent the possibility of mistaken identity cases and to seek money to cover his legal fees.

Throughout the case, Pagano, who was identified as the "Gentleman Bandit" by seven robbery victims or witnesses, maintained his innocence.