PHILADELPHIA -- After decades of dodging allegations of abusing children, a disgraced former Catholic priest pleaded guilty Wednesday to molesting two altar boys in Bucks County decades ago.
Francis Trauger, 74, admitted his guilt to two counts of indecent assault of a minor and Bucks County Judge Jeffrey L. Finley sentenced him to 18 to 36 months in a state prison and seven years' probation.
Despite being named in multiple grand jury reports on the abuse of children by Catholic priests in the Philadelphia archdiocese, Trauger had not been prosecuted until the case that led to Wednesday's guilty plea.
Trauger's attorney, Brian McVann, said the defrocked priest's conduct "cannot be defended" and that Trauger felt compelled to admit his guilt and take responsibility for his actions.
"He has done great good in his life," McVann said. "Unfortunately, it has been lost in this case."
But Finley, in passing down the sentence, told Trauger that any good he had done during his decadeslong tenure with the church had been "torn down" and destroyed by these actions.
"I don't know that you truly understood that," the judge said, "Or at least that you truly didn't understand that until you were arrested."
Two men, now in their 30s, told investigators Trauger groped them as they changed into their altar boy vestments before of Mass at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Tullytown. The small community church was Trauger's final assignment before he was named as an abuser in a sweeping grand jury report detailing decades of child abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and a massive cover-up by church officials.
The Tullytown assaults took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when both victims were 12, prosecutors said. The case was referred to District Attorney Matt Weintraub in 2018, after one of the men filed a complaint with the archdiocese's victim compensation fund. The second victim came forward in March 2019.
Despite being nearly 20 years old, the cases were eligible for prosecution under a 2005 change in the statute of limitations for sex abuse.
Trauger, who now lives in New York City, was defrocked in 2005, amid the grand jury investigation overseen by then District Attorney Lynne M. Abraham. His conduct factored into the prosecution of former Monsignor William J. Lynn, who was accused of suppressing credible information about Trauger's abuse of teenage boys, including on overnight trips to the Pocono Mountains in the 1980s.
Lynn was found guilty, but his conviction was vacated and a second trial is pending. Trauger was never criminally prosecuted for the allegations in Philadelphia.
During testimony in the case against Lynn in 2012, one accuser told prosecutors Trauger locked him in a conference room at his Catholic high school for over an hour to discuss homosexuality, touched him inappropriately and made passing threats against his family.
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