Ex-Priest Seeks to Withdraw Guilty Plea in Child Porn Case

August 24, 2006

Mineola, N.Y. -- A former priest who was given probation for molesting a teenager in the 1980s and who admitted last month he tried to lure another teenager for sex said he wants to withdraw his guilty plea.

Thomas Bender, 72, of Easton, Pa., pleaded guilty last month to charges of attempting to disseminate indecent material to a minor, attempted criminal sex act and attempted child endangerment, authorities said.

Bender is apparently taking advantage of an appellate court ruling last month that dismissed an indictment in a Westchester County case against a Manhattan lawyer who was accused of disseminating indecent material to a minor.

The court ruled that written communications without sexual pictures is not sexually explicit material.

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice was looking for the maximum prison term of 24 years at Bender's sentencing Wednesday. Instead, Bender filed a motion through his Legal Aid attorney seeking to have the guilty plea vacated.

His Legal Aid attorney declined to speak with reporters.

Bender was sentenced in 1988 to seven years probation for molesting a teenage boy. He was arrested on Long Island in March when he tried to meet someone he thought was a 14-year-old boy but turned out to be an undercover detective, authorities said.

Laura Ahearn of Parents for Megan's Law said legislation to fix the loophole has already passed the state Senate and awaits consideration in the Assembly.

She also suggested that some of the online predators could face prosecution in federal courts for using the Internet to lure young victims.


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