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Priest sentenced to four years of probation

By: matt steiner matt.steiner@gazette.com
October 4, 2013 Updated: October 4, 2013 at 7:51 am
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A 4th Judicial District judge sentenced Colorado Springs Catholic priest Charles Robert "Bob" Manning to four years probation Thursday after he was convicted in July of two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Manning, who was acquitted July 3 of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old altar boy, apologized to the victim, his family, the court and the Diocese of Colorado Springs before Judge Robin Chittum handed down his sentence.

The 78-year-old who is confined to a wheel chair and on oxygen echoed the apology just outside the courtroom.

"I'm very sorry for what I did," he said. "I'm just glad this is all over. It's been a long road."

Chittum echoed the words of one witness during the trial, saying "inappropriate, inappropriate, inappropriate" as she explained why she gave Manning the sentence that she did.

"This case is inappropriate in so many different ways," Chittum said.

Chittum considered that Manning had no prior criminal record, not even a traffic offense, as defense attorney Richard Bednarski said, when she decided probation was appropriate.

The judge added that she mulled whether to give Manning jail time along with the probation. But Chittum explained that if the 78-year-old did go to jail, all Manning would do is sit in the hospital wing and be cared for by a nurse.

"If I thought that doing something different would make this better, I would," she said.

During the trial, testimony and evidence convinced the jury that Manning was guilty of giving alcohol and marijuana to the victim and a friend.

Chittum, Manning and Bednarski each said that Manning's relationship with the victim became "inappropriate."

The boy had come to manning "innocently," Chittum said, adding that the 16-year-old looked to Manning "for guidance, something spiritual, something bigger than himself."

"He found that in you Father Manning," she said. "And you turned that and took that away from him."

Manning said he took his bond with the boy too far. He said what began as mentoring later became a "grandfather-grandson" relationship and called it an "improper friendship."

"It was certainly not the proper action for an adult, especially a priest," he said.

Bednarski asked for probation without jail time because of his client's deteriorating health.

The priest struggled to stand at the beginning of the trial and couldn't go without his wheelchair by Thursday's sentencing. He has been living in St. Louis at the Regina Cleri Home for retired priests. During his trips back to the high altitude of Colorado, Manning was instructed by his doctor to use supplemental oxygen.

Manning's attorney said after the sentencing that he was going to apply for the probation to be transferred out of state so the priest can return to lower elevation.

Manning and his lawyer were happy there was no jail time included in the sentence.

"It's a little longer than I would have hoped," Manning said of the four years of probation. "I doubt that I'll live long enough to serve it all."

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