Sunday, January 13, 2013

Archdiocese of Miami: Arrested U.S. priest Neil Doherty, pastor at St. Vincent Catholic Church

One of South Florida’s most notorious priests — accused by multiple men of molesting them as youth — is expected to accept plead guilty to criminal charges Monday morning in Broward Circuit Court.

The Rev. Neil Doherty is scheduled to appear before Circuit Judge Kenneth Gillespie, where he will accept a plea deal, according to his lawyer, David Bogenschutz.

The details of the plea deal were not released Sunday.

Doherty, now retired from the Archdiocese of Miami, has served at several South Florida churches, including St. Vincent’s in Margate, St. Anthony in Fort Lauderdale and St. Phillip in Northwest Miami-Dade.

He has a long list of accusers who say he used his position of power to drug and rape them when they were boys. Some of the accusations date back to the 1970s but came to light only in recent years.

His accusers say Doherty used his position to molest young victims. In several cases, Doherty is accused of slipping drugs into drinks to make boys sleepy and molesting them while they were unconscious.

Documents released in 2006 as part of the Broward case included an interview with the priest’s longtime secretary, who said the archdiocese was aware of allegations that Doherty was having inappropriate relationships with young boys.

Despite the many civil suits filed against him, this will be the first criminal punishment for Doherty as a result of the accusations.

In most cases, criminal charges could not be filed because the statute of limitations had passed for alleged events.

However, several civil cases involving him have been settled out of court. The first case that went to a jury ended with a $100 million award to the victim.

In case before the court Monday, Doherty, 69, is charged with multiple counts of lewd or lascivious molestation, lewd acts in the presence of a child and sexual battery on a victim younger than 12, court records show.

Several people who say they, too, were victims of Doherty are expected in court Monday. They want to see his plea for themselves.

They hope the punishment will be strict, said Jeffrey Herman, a lawyer who represents many of the men.

“They are pleased Doherty will be convicted of a crime like this, but they don’t think he should be spending any time out of jail,” Herman said. “He’s dangerous.”

Doherty remained Sunday in Broward County’s Main Jail, held without bail.

Doherty spent three decades serving in Broward and Miami-Dade parishes, including time as the archdiocese’s director of vocations.

Doherty continued to serve as a priest until he was placed on administrative leave in 2002.

- By Diana Moskovitz, Miami Herald