MESA, Ariz. (Reuters) - A Catholic priest was sentenced on Friday to 111 years in state prison for sexually abusing three boys at a suburban Phoenix church and area campsites.
Rev. Paul LeBrun, 49, showed no emotion as he received the maximum sentence from Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Crane McClennen in the first case in Arizona of a clergyman going to trial for such crimes.
He was convicted in November of six felony sex crimes against youths ranging in age from 11 to 13 years old.
LeBrun, a former youth minister, was found guilty by a jury of three counts each of child molestation and sexual conduct with a minor for crimes between July 1986 and May 1991.
"You took from them their youth, you took from them their innocence," said McClennen, in pronouncing the sentence. "In many instances, you took from them their trust in God."
The judge said the priest used the power of his position to inflict such pain on his victims that "I don't believe those scars will ever go away."
LeBrun, who was removed from his priestly duties in 1999 but has not been defrocked, declined to speak at Friday's sentencing and did not testify during the four-week trial. His attorney said an appeal would be filed, and declined further comment.
The judge's decision came after emotional testimony by family members of the victims, including the mother of one of the boys involved. The victim trembled and tears welled in his eyes as the judge went through the sentencing.
During the trial, the judge also allowed the testimony of four men from Indiana, who said LeBrun abused them while he was a priest there. The suspected crimes were too old to prosecute in Indiana and were not part of the Arizona charges.
LeBrun is the eighth Phoenix-area priest to face charges for alleged sex abuse in a firestorm that sent shock waves throughout the United States.
In Phoenix, three priests have pleaded guilty, one died while under indictment and another was recently brought back from Mexico to face charges. Prosecutors are seeking the return of two others who are known to be living in Ireland and Italy.
Rachel Mitchell, head of the county prosecutor's sex crimes unit, said the stiff penalty was "vindication for these victims and they need that."
"It also tells people who have been victimized by people in authority that someone is listening and will do something about it," she said.
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