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Ex-Priest Asks for Reversal of Plea Deal

December 24, 2003

PHOENIX (AP) _ A former priest has asked a judge to release him from a plea deal that would send him to prison on two felony counts of sexual misconduct involving a 13-year-old boy.

Lawrence Joseph Lovell signed the deal Oct. 23, admitting sexual misconduct in 1978 and 1979 in Yavapai County. Under the deal, he could be sentenced to 5 1/4 years to 14 years in prison.

On Tuesday, Lovell asked Judge Thomas B. Lindberg to allow him to dump the plea deal and go to trial and also to replace his court-appointed attorney, who Lovell said was ineffective. Lindberg set a Jan. 21 hearing on the requested plea change.

Lovell was accused of molesting the boy while he worked as a priest in Prescott from 1976 to 1979. He was convicted of child molestation in another case in 1986 and removed from the ministry that year.

Lovell also faces a new complaint, alleging misconduct involving a boy at St. Anthony and Pius X mission in the 1980s in Phoenix. In California, charges involving accusations that he molested four boys at San Gabriel Mission between 1980 and 1984 were dismissed earlier this year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that had erased the statute of limitations on old child molestation cases.

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