Parole Denied For Former Priest Convicted Of Molesting Altar Boys

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - A defrocked priest who pleaded guilty to molesting altar boys will not get an early release from the prison term he began serving last year.

The Kansas Parole Board said Monday that Robert Larson, 72, should remain in prison because of "the serious nature and the circumstances of the crime and the objections regarding parole."

Larson, who is serving a three- to 10-year sentence, will not be eligible for parole again until September 2004.

He was retired and living in Willoughby, Ohio, when the charges were brought against him.

"I'm very pleased with how the judicial system has treated this case," said Paul Schwartz, one of the four victims Larson was convicted of molesting. "It actually gives me some hope that the judicial system actually does work."

Larson spent 30 years as a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wichita. The offenses for which he was convicted took place in the 1980s while he was pastor at St. Mary's in Newton.

He was removed from the parish in 1988 for what Eugene Gerber, then the bishop of the diocese, acknowledged were several allegations of sexual abuse. He was sent to an institution in Maryland for treatment and eventually stripped of his title and responsibilities as a priest.

Larson pleaded guilty in February 2001 to one felony count of indecent liberties with a child and three misdemeanor counts of sexual battery.

He became eligible automatically for parole after serving half of his minimum sentence, or 18 months. The parole board could have allowed Larson to come up for parole again next year, but chose to extend the sentence because of the serious nature of his crimes, parole board administrator Colene Fischli said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)