Priest's Sentencing Delayed

By Rita Ciolli
January 16, 2003

The scheduled sentencing of the Rev. Michael Hands was postponed for two months in Nassau County Court yesterday to give the Suffolk district attorney's office time to investigate whether the admitted molester of a teenage boy committed any crimes while free on bail.

"I would like a two-month adjournment while we figure out what is happening in Suffolk County," said Peter Rubin, Hands' attorney. County Court Judge Donald DeRiggi rescheduled the case for March 12. Hands remains in the Riverhead jail in lieu of $1 million cash bail. The priest was not present at the proceeding.

Hands is awaiting sentencing in Nassau on five counts of sodomy and endangering the welfare of a boy. Similar charges involving the same teen are pending in Suffolk because the assaults took place in both counties.

In 2001, Hands became a cooperating witness in the investigation of the Diocese of Rockville Centre launched by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota. In return for his testimony to the grand jury, Hands was told that Spota would recommend a sentence of 6 months in jail and 5 years' probation.

However, Spota called that deal off on Monday when he asked Suffolk County Court Judge Stephen Braslow to put Hands in jail because he violated his cooperation agreement by having contacts with men he met in gay Internet chat rooms and for sending e-mail messages to a friend of his victim. A spokesman for Spota declined to comment.

Outside court yesterday, Rubin predicted his client will not face any new charges.


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