A former Roman Catholic priest who served in Prince George's and Montgomery counties pleaded guilty yesterday to sexually molesting a Silver Spring youth in 1966, a crime that the victim, now 44, did not report until last May.
James A. Finan, 70, a former pastor of St. Nicholas Church in Laurel and Holy Redeemer Church in Kensington, was an alcoholic prone to blackouts at the time he molested the boy 37 years ago, said Finan's attorney, Jerome Stanbury. Police said the abuse occurred while Finan was visiting the youngster's home.
Stanbury said his client, who is now sober, "regrets very terribly what happened."
Finan was removed from the priesthood in 1996 and sentenced to 18 months in jail after a similar molestation complaint, also filed decades after the crime. A 41-year-old man told authorities that he had been victimized by Finan in 1966 at Holy Redeemer. Finan also pleaded guilty in that case.
"He's very aware of how he's harmed the victims," Stanbury said. "He said to me, 'You know I feel so bad, and all I can say is I'm sorry. Those are just words.' "
Finan, who has been living in a retirement home in the 1000 block of Varnum Street NE, pleaded guilty in Montgomery Circuit Court yesterday to one count of committing an "unnatural and perverted" sex act. Although some states have laws barring authorities from filing charges against a suspect decades after a crime, Maryland has no such statute of limitations in felony cases.
Judge Ann S. Harrington scheduled sentencing for March 31. Finan's crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but the sentencing guidelines in his case call for a term of six months to four years, authorities said.
"The victim was gratified that this matter was resolved with a guilty plea and therefore it was not necessary to testify in open court," said Assistant State's Attorney Peter A. Feeney. "This crime has haunted him his entire life."
In reporting the abuse, the victim said that in 1966, Finan visited his Silver Spring home. The priest came for dinner and to counsel the youth's mother, who was on the verge of divorce. After dinner, according to charging documents in the case, Finan and the mother drank whiskey, and the mother invited him to spend the night in her son's bedroom.
Later that evening, Finan came into the bedroom as the boy lay awake, got in his bed and fondled him, according to the court documents.
The boy "began to panic," the charging documents state. "He told Father Finan he had to go to the bathroom. He went into his grandmother's bedroom and slept with her for the rest of the night."
After reporting the incident last May, the victim telephoned Finan, a call that was monitored by police.
When the victim asked about the long-ago incident, Finan replied that "he remembers going to his house to visit but really didn't remember" the victim, according to the charging documents. "He stated that he was drinking a lot back then and could [have] abused him."
Finan later told police that he could not say whether "the abuse did or did not happen," the documents state.