Former priest pleads guilty in child sex case

Michael Hands

The Post Star

“A defrocked former Catholic priest who lived at a “retreat” in Washington County pleaded guilty Friday to two felony charges for having sexual contact with an underage boy.

Michael R. Hands, 51, pleaded guilty to counts of third-degree criminal sexual act for sexual contact with a child younger than the age of 17 in the town of Charlton last July. He had also been accused of sharing pornography with the teen.

The charges were brought because the teen was too young to legally consent to sexual relations.

 The plea satisfied a nine-count indictment, and Hands faces up to 8 years in state prison when he is sentenced March 2 by Saratoga County Judge James Murphy.

Hands lived at 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 is a Level 3 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.

Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen praised the work of State Police from the Malta station and her prosecutors for securing the admissions of guilt.

 “Today, the defendant, who admitted praying (sic) on a vulnerable young victim, was held responsible for his conduct,” she said in a news release.

Heggen said Hands met the teen online and “cultivated the relationship over a period of time” before they met in person.

Hands is being held in Saratoga County Jail pending sentencing.

His lawyer, James Tyner, had no comment on the case as of Saturday, Jan. 6.”

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