New Cloud over Abuse Rev

Downloaded January 14, 2003

A Long Island priest, already awaiting sentencing for sexually abusing a teenage youth, was jailed yesterday after authorities said he was suspected of engaging in criminal activity over the weekend.
The Rev. Michael Hands had been free on $25,000 bail, but he was returned to jail yesterday after a judge increased his bail to $1 million in cash.

No new charges were filed, and Assistant District Attorney Emily Constant declined to say what criminal activity Hands may have engaged in. Constant said only that Hands had voluntarily turned over his laptop computer to Suffolk County police.

Suffolk County Criminal Court Judge Stephen Braslow granted a defense lawyer's request that his client be placed under suicide watch while held in the Suffolk County jail.

The lawyer, Peter Rubin, would not elaborate on the suspected criminal activity except to say he believes it "has nothing to do with communicating with underage youth."

After the court hearing, Constant confirmed that Hands has been cooperating with the district attorney's office in its investigation of alleged sexual abuse by priests within the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

He has testified before a grand jury looking into how the leadership handled allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the diocese, which represents nearly 1.5 million Catholics in 134 parishes on Long Island.

"Nothing indicates any information was not credible," Constant said of Hands' testimony in the wider probe.

Hands, 36, pleaded guilty in March to having sex with a teenager in his rectory and was to be sentenced tomorrow in Nassau County on sodomy and endangerment charges. That sentencing has been postponed a number of times since Hands pleaded guilty, as he has cooperated with authorities in neighboring Suffolk County.

He faces a seven-count indictment in Suffolk involving the same 14-year-old victim on charges of sodomy, sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child, Constant said.


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