Fallen Delray priest gets four years - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Fallen Delray priest gets four years

By Chuck Weber bio | email

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - Another disgraced priest is headed to prison for stealing from his church.

Dressed in jailhouse blues, Father Francis Guinan appeared in court Wednesday for sentencing. Last month a jury convicted Guinan of stealing between $20,000 and $100,000 from St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church in Delray Beach. (Prosecutors had tried him on a more serious charge, taking more than $100,000.) Since Guinan had no priors, state guidelines called for a sentence ranging from probation and no jail time, to 15 years in prison.

Several fellow priests spoke on Guinan's behalf. They said Guinan had already suffered, being stripped of his priesthood.

Guinan also addressed the judge. "I just want to say, your honor, that I am sorry," he began. "I'd like to apologize, especially to the secretaries at St. Vincent's, and to the parishioners."

When Guinan's lawyer, Richard Barlow asked what an appropriate sentence would be, Guinan replied the past month in jail would be sufficient. He said he would be of better service to society out of jail.

In announcing the sentence, Judge Krista Marx told Guinan, "No matter how many good works you may have done... your legacy will always be one of thievery and deceit." Calling his acts an "egregious abuse of authority," Judge Marx gave Guinan four years in prison. Marx also ordered him to pay restitution of $99,000 once he's out.

Even though prosecutor Preston Migdoll had asked for a longer sentence of between five and ten years, he said afterward he was still satisfied. "We're certainly pleased that someone who's been in such a position of trust that's been severely violated, has been brought to justice," commented Migdoll.

"Well we're terribly disappointed," sighed Father Nicholas King, who spoke for Guinan during the hearing. King said he and Guinan attended seminary together in Ireland, and came to the United States at the same time. "Obviously we're devastated he is allowed to spend four years in prison," said King, referring to Guinan's health. The former priest had a heart attack several years ago.

Barlow, Guinan's lawyer, said his client was disappointed; however, Barlow said, he expected a longer sentence. He said Guinan has not decided whether to appeal.

Just a day earlier, Guinan's co-defendant, former priest John Skehan, received a 14 month prison sentence for stealing from the same church. Skehan had chosen not to go to trial, instead pleading guilty to the more serious charge of taking more than $100,000. Skehan is also paying restitution of nearly $800,000 to the Diocese of Palm Beach.

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