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Vegas-Area Priest Faces Sex Charge

April 23, 2002

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LAS VEGAS (AP) _ A Roman Catholic priest was charged Monday with lewdly touching and photographing teen-age boys he was counseling at his parish in suburban Henderson.

As penance for minor transgressions, the Rev. Mark Roberts also had each of the five boys partially or fully disrobe and stretch out his arms as if he were on a cross, prosecutor Ronald Bloxham said.

Prosecutors said the incidents involved five victims and occurred in the last three years. The boys were 16 or 17 years old at the time of the alleged offenses.

A criminal complaint said Roberts also allegedly hit three boys and struck one with a metal coat hanger; ordered four boys to whip themselves with cords; embraced one boy; and verbally abused some of the boys.

Clark County District Attorney Stewart Bell said the 51-year-old priest ``would have these boys strip, he would give them massages or have them give him massages. He was obviously taking advantage of them for his base pleasures.″

Roberts was charged with using two boys in the production of pornography, felonies punishable by five years to life in prison and a $100,000 fine.

His lawyer, George Foley Sr., declined comment Monday, saying he had not had a chance to fully review the charges.

Roberts has been at an undisclosed location for medical treatment since Feb. 1. He was suspended with pay Jan. 30th from St. Peter the Apostle Church in Henderson.

Las Vegas Catholic Bishop Joseph A. Pepe said Monday that he and diocese officials were saddened by the charges.

``But it gives us an opportunity to be open and to do everything possible to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the diocese,″ he said.

The allegations became public in March, after a civil lawsuit accused Roberts of abusing eight boys in his parish.

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