BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. (AP) >> A former Roman Catholic priest who served prison time for sexually abusing a New York teenager 17 years ago is now charged with abusing a boy earlier this year.
Authorities say 51-year-old Michael Hands, of Easton in Washington County, has been charged with sexually abusing a teenager in Saratoga County this year.
The former priest in the Diocese of Rockville Centre was convicted in 2003 of sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in Suffolk County. He served 15 months in prison and is registered with the state as a Level 3 sex offender.
Saratoga County prosecutors say Hands was charged in July with sexually abusing a local boy he met online. He remained in the county jail Wednesday.
A message left with his attorney wasn’t immediately returned.
BALLSTON SPA — A defrocked former Catholic priest who lives at a “retreat” in Washington County was ordered held for lack of bail Tuesday on charges that accuse him of sexually abusing a teenage boy in Saratoga County earlier this year.
Michael R. Hands, 51, a Level 3 registered sex offender from Easton, was sent to Saratoga County Jail for lack of $75,000 cash bail or $150,000 bail bond. He was arraigned before Saratoga County Judge James Murphy on a nine-count indictment for alleged sex crimes with a child in Charlton earlier this year.
Hands is a registered sex offender because of a 2003 sodomy conviction in Suffolk County, which occurred when he was a Catholic priest on Long Island in the early 2000s. He was removed from the priesthood after state records show he pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy.
His case attracted national media attention at the time, with The New York Times reporting that Hands claimed he was sexually abused when he was studying to be a priest, and that he cooperated with an investigation into the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center.
Hands has been living at 391 Herrington Hill Road in Easton for at least four years, registering that address with the state Division of Criminal Justice Services.
That is the address for Easton Mountain Retreat, a business that bills itself as a nonprofit “community, retreat center, and sanctuary created by gay men as a gift to the world.”
His profile on the organization’s website showed he served as its “membership director” in recent years, after starting as a “volunteer coordinator.”
He also bills himself online as a “life coach.”
Hands’ status with Easton Mountain Retreat was unclear Tuesday. A call to the organization was not returned.
Hands was arrested by State Police investigators from the Malta station in July, but the case was not publicized until a brief press release was issued by the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office last week about Hands’ indictment.
He faces felony counts of criminal sexual act, use of a child in a sexual performance, disseminating indecent material, sexual abuse, promoting a sexual performance by a child and a misdemeanor of endangering the welfare of a child, records show. In addition to sexual abuse of an underage person, he is accused of possessing and distributing child pornography, although it was unclear whether it was related to the child he is accused of molesting.
Authorities said he met the boy online before arranging meetings.
His lawyer, James Tyner, did not respond to a phone call for comment.
Hands faces up to 47 years in state prison on the charges.
A devout Catholic judge said he was mystified by the actions of a former Long Island priest before sentencing the disgraced ex-cleric to six months in prison for molesting a boy. “I always thought the love of Jesus Christ was enough for a priest,” Nassau County Judge Donald DeRiggi said before sentencing Michael Hands. “The Catholic Church is so vehement in its stand against fornication and homosexuality and adultery, how someone in the church can violate those things is hard to understand.
” Hands, 36, who pleaded guilty, will serve the sentence concurrently with a two-year term imposed in Suffolk for molesting the same youth. The victim attended Hands’ sentencing in Suffolk last week but was not at yesterday’s proceedings in Mineola, L.
The victim, who was molested in 1999 and 2000, bitterly denounced Hands at last week’s sentencing, saying, “As a 13-year-old boy my body was brutally raped and my innocence murdered by a selfish, despicable, manipulative beast.
” Hands apologized to the youth and his family. He blamed his behavior on sexual abuse he says he suffered at the hands of a monsignor as a student at Trinity High School in Hicksville. That abuse “left scars that I’ve carried with me for 20 years,” he said. “I ask that people give me forgiveness,” Hands said. “I repent of my actions. I am committed to never, never repeating such actions.”
The incidents for which Hands was sentenced yesterday occurred at his living quarters at the St. Raphael rectory in East Meadow. When he gets out of jail, DeRiggi said, Hands will be required to register as a sex offender with local police. He also would have gotten six months in the Suffolk case except that he violated his bail agreement by going onto a gay Web site. That case involved sex acts with the boy while Hands was assigned to St. Philip Neri Church in Northport.