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Priest named in Pennsylvania church sex abuse probe jailed

A Roman Catholic priest on Friday became the first person sentenced to prison as a result of a Pennsylvania grand jury investigation that found hundreds of clergy had abused children over seven decades.

The Rev. John Thomas Sweeney, 76, received 11½ months to five years in state prison and will have to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

He pleaded guilty in July to misdemeanor indecent assault on a minor after being accused of forcing a 10-year-old boy to perform oral sex on him while counseling the fourth-grader about misbehaving on a school bus.

“I want the public to know that he’s profoundly remorseful for any pain, anguish and discomfort that the victim has suffered as a result of his actions,” said Sweeney’s lawyer, Fran Murrman, after the sentencing in Westmoreland County.

“During the last 25 years Father Sweeney has engaged in hundreds of acts of charity and goodwill, hoping to partially atone for the behavior. And he takes this matter seriously and accepts full responsibility,” Murrman said in a phone interview.

Sweeney was taken away in handcuffs after the sentencing hearing.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office prosecuted Sweeney, described him as a predator priest who used his position to abuse a child. Shapiro noted the victim testified against Sweeney.