Arizona Priest Faces 100+ Years in Prison after Conviction on Sex Abuse Charges

After three weeks of testimony, a jury found a Catholic priest guilty on six counts of sexually abusing young boys.

The Rev. Paul LeBrun, 49, was the first priest to be convicted on sexual abuse charges in West Valley since the Catholic sex scandal first emerged just over four years ago.

LeBrun was accused of abusing West Valley boys ranging in age from 11 to 16 from 1986 to 1991 at Blessed Sacrament Church in Tolleson and St. John Vianney Church in Avondale.

Four Indiana victims, ranging from 9 to 13, had been abused by LeBrun between 1979 and 1986. The four, now adults in Indiana, offered damning testimony in a Mesa, Arizona courtroom.

LeBrun now faces a maximum sentence of more than 100 years. The Church has stripped him of all priestly duties, although he is yet to be defrocked. He had been in Maricopa County Jail since 2003 awaiting trial on eight counts of sexual conduct with a minor and five counts of child molestation.

The prosecution emphasized that LeBrun used his position to prey on vulnerable young boys who lacked a positive male influence in their lives, and who came from broken homes in Arizona and Indiana. "He was basically a wolf in sheep’s clothing," the prosecutor said. "Everything he did was to get close to these little boys. Everything he did was to abuse these little boys."

The defense claimed that the accusers were motivated by greed since they had not stepped forward for over 20 years. Civil suits for damages, felony conviction, and other bad acts (like attempting to bribe LeBrun’s cellmate to fabricate a jailhouse confession by LeBrun) were cited by the defense as indications that the accusers’ motivations were purely monetary.  

While LeBrun cannot be tried in Indiana for his conduct there due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Crane McClennen did allow their testimony in the Arizona trial as evidence of "a character trait that predisposes him to commit the crimes charged."

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