Sentencing of NY priest postponed

April 18, 2008 12:30:22 PM PDT
The sentencing of a defrocked Roman Catholic priest who admitting driving to what he thought would be a tryst with a teenage boy was postponed until May 8.Thomas Bender, who faces at least five years in prison, was to be sentenced the day Pope Benedict XVI arrived in New York for his first official visit.

The pontiff has repeatedly expressed regret since his arrival in the United States earlier this week over the clergy sex abuse scandal that has rocked the American church in recent years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Bode said the postponement was unrelated to the pontiff's visit. He said the judge needed more time to consider late filings of letters by the defense and prosecution.

Bender, 74, who received probation in the 1980s for molesting a Pennsylvania boy, pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of enticing a minor for sex.

Prosecutors said he drove from his home in Macungie, Pa., to a pizzeria in Levittown, Long Island, for what he thought would be a sex tryst with an underage boy. He also faces sentencing in Nassau County on state charges related to the incident.

The Bender case had no direct ties to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre. But a 2003 Suffolk County grand jury report cited abuse cases involving 23 priests over several decades in the Long Island church, the sixth-largest diocese in the country. None of those cases was prosecuted because statutes of limitations had expired.