Ex-priest sentenced to 15 years in prison in child sex abuse case
A retired priest convicted of molesting a young boy and accused of preying on dozens of others was sentenced Monday to 15 years in state prison.
Neil Doherty, 69, pleaded no contest earlier this month to criminal charges brought against him on behalf of one victim, a man who grew up across the street from St. Vincent’s Roman Catholic Church in Margate, where Doherty was the pastor. The man accused Doherty of drugging him and having sex with him.
As part of a plea negotiation, Doherty faced a maximum 15-year prison sentence, though he pleaded for leniency through his lawyer, David Bogenschutz, who argued that Doherty’s age and frail condition made him unlikely to offend again.
Broward Circuit Judge Kenneth Gillespie was unmoved, sentencing Doherty to the maximum allowable term.
Before handing down his sentence, Gillespie heard from the victim’s lawyer, Jeff Herman, as well as two other men who said they were abused by the defendant while he was serving as a priest.
“Father Neil, as I knew him, told me he was going to help me, that his job was to show God’s love,” said one, a man now in his 40s who said Doherty abused him in 1984 and 1985. “What happened was he laced wine he gave me with drugs and when I awoke I was naked and had been sexually abused.”
The Sun Sentinel does not identify victims of sexual abuse.
The Rev. Chanel Jeanty, chancellor for canonical affairs for the Archdiocese of Miami, told Gillespie that the church was aware of 34 complaints of sexual abuse at Doherty’s hands.
Archdiocese of Miami spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta issued a written statement Monday noting that Doherty was removed from active ministry in 2002.
“We continue to pray for the healing of those whom he victimized as well as for all young people who have been abused by an adult in a position of trust,” Ross Agosta wrote. “That a priest would give scandal in this way both angers and shames us.”
Doherty will get credit for 842 days he has already served in the Broward Main Jail awaiting trial.