“A former Long Island Catholic priest and convicted sex offender was found dead in his Saratoga County jail cell after an apparent suicide on Tuesday, just days before he was to be sentenced to state prison for molesting a child.
He was set to be sentenced this week for two counts of third-degree criminal sex act. He faced up to eight years in prison.
Hands, who was a victim of abuse himself, had been convicted in 2003 of molesting a 13-year-old boy on Long Island. He served two years in prison and cooperated with a grand jury investigation into abusive priests on Long Island at the time.
The state Commission of Correction confirmed that Saratoga County notified them of the death Tuesday and the agency has begun an investigation. The commission investigates the deaths of all prisoners in county jails and state prisons. An autopsy is scheduled.
His original abuse case, which took place in multiple Long Island parishes from August 1999 until early 2001, was similar to other stories of priests molesting children. But it stood out because of the extent of Hands’ cooperation with officials at the time as part of a larger investigation in to abuse claims, according to the New York Times.
Hands’ first victim criticized the relatively lenient sentence Hands’ received as part of his cooperation and said he was still a predator who needed to be watched. The teenager told the Times: ”That was my No. 1 goal throughout the whole thing, to protect as many people as I can.””