An Ohio priest who coerced three boys into participating in sexual acts as youngsters and abused their habit to opioids as youngsters and adults, paying them cash that funded their drug habits in change for intercourse, was sentenced to life in jail on Friday, the Justice Department mentioned.
The priest, Michael Zacharias, 56, was discovered responsible in May of 5 counts of intercourse trafficking by a federal jury in Toledo, Ohio, in a case that prosecutors mentioned revealed how a trusted non secular chief had preyed on childhood piety.
During the two-week trial, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office within the Northern District of Ohio described the pernicious actions of Mr. Zacharias, who they mentioned had focused financially weak boys with out fathers or regular lives at house, incomes their belief via affections that ultimately morphed into inappropriate sexual feedback and touching.
Rebecca C. Lutzko, the U.S. lawyer within the district, mentioned in an announcement on Friday that Mr. Zacharias “was held accountable because of the courageous testimony of these young men, who gave voice to his betrayal and abuse.”
She added that “although no amount of time can ever wholly repair the damage that Zacharias inflicted on his victims, the life sentence that he received today is a significant step toward finding justice and protecting our community.”
Mr. Zacharias’s attorneys didn’t instantly reply to calls in search of remark late Friday evening. During the trial, Mr. Zacharias maintained his innocence and contended that any sexual acts he had engaged in had been consensual and with adults, based on court docket data.
The Diocese of Toledo mentioned in an announcement that Mr. Zacharias’s “status as a priest” was nonetheless awaiting a “final determination” from the Vatican.
Bishop Daniel Thomas of the Diocese of Toledo mentioned in an announcement in May, after Mr. Zacharias’s conviction, that “the acts of which Rev. Michael Zacharias has been found guilty are reprehensible, morally deplorable and manifestly contrary to the dignity due to each human person and the dignity of the priesthood.”
The Roman Catholic Church has lengthy been stricken by stories of sexual abuse of youngsters by monks throughout the county, resulting in legal circumstances which have shrouded the church in disgrace.
During Mr. Zacharias’s trial, prosecutors repeatedly emphasised that he had been not solely predatory with youngsters, but additionally merciless. Their lives, prosecutors mentioned, had been corroded by a priest who had exploited their drug addictions for his personal sexual satisfaction.
One sufferer — who was in junior highschool and highschool when he interacted with Mr. Zacharias — instructed investigators that someday earlier than he had turned 17, Mr. Zacharias knew he was hooked on medicine and made a suggestion: $1,500 for a sexual act.
The sufferer, unidentified in court docket data, “advised that he did not want Zacharias to do it and only relented because he needed the money to support his drug habit,” based on court docket paperwork.
Mr. Zacharias was properly conscious of his misconduct, court docket data state: In a video he as soon as made that was later obtained by the authorities, he confessed to “grooming” the sufferer in sixth grade and pondering on the time that he needed to carry out a sexual act on the boy. The video then exhibits the priest performing that sexual act on the sufferer, who was in his mid-20s on the time.
A second sufferer interacted with Mr. Zacharias at St. Catherine’s Catholic School in Toledo, Ohio, from kindergarten to eighth grade.
When the sufferer, additionally unidentified in court docket data, was in ninth grade, he instructed the priest that he was “dope sick,” or experiencing withdrawal from not utilizing medicine, court docket data state. Mr. Zacharias arrived on the home of the sufferer and instructed him that he would pay $50 for a drug if the sufferer let him have interaction in a sexual act with him, data present.
The sufferer didn’t need to do it, however “knowing that the $50 would enable him to buy an OxyContin pill that would make him feel better,” he ultimately agreed, based on prosecutors.
Another time, when the sufferer was 18 years outdated and nonetheless affected by drug habit, Mr. Zacharias visited him and requested if he “was still using drugs,” prosecutors mentioned. The sufferer mentioned sure.
Mr. Zacharias once more engaged in a sexual act and instructed the sufferer to “not to tell anyone or he could get in trouble,” data state.
Years later, although, the sufferer did.