California IN BRIEF : SANTA BARBARA : Priest Pleads Guilty to Molesting Boy

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A former boys choir director and priest at St. Anthony's Seminary pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of molesting a boy under 14 at the seminary. Father Robert Van Handel faces a maximum eight years in prison when he is sentenced June 21. He was the second priest convicted of child abuse at the Franciscan seminary and boarding school. Former students have made allegations against 11 St. Anthony's priests. Because most of the alleged incidents occurred before 1987, the criminal statute of limitations has expired. Van Handel and others still face civil lawsuits. The Franciscans have acknowledged that sexual abuse took place at the seminary boarding school between 1964 and 1987. Van Handel, former leader of the Santa Barbara Boys Choir, molested the unidentified boy between 1987 and 1989. "I'd like to admit that I did abuse this child. I accept full responsibility for that. At no time was it ever the child's fault, and I'm very deeply sorry," Van Handel told Municipal Judge Frank Ochoa.

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