Ontario Catholic Priest Sentenced To 18-Months For Child Sex Abuse Last Year May Be Released After Just 6-Months

Don Grecco
Ex-Catholic priest Don Grecco at the St. Catharines court house in October 2017.

St Catharines Standard

There was supposed to be closure. The ghosts of the past were supposed to be at rest.

But William O’Sullivan doesn’t sleep. Not since October 23, the day the Catholic priest who sexually abused him as a child was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Justice, O’Sullivan thought, would bring him peace of mind.

Instead, when O’Sullivan closes his eyes, he sees a replay of years of abuse suffered at the hands of Donald Grecco and at least two other clergymen. Rather than putting it to rest, confronting the past in court gave it new life.

“I don’t sleep very well. Not since the sentencing,” O’Sullivan says. “The night terrors came back. I have them almost every night. And now they’re getting worse.”

The 49-year-old’s nightmares have grown more intense after he was told this week that Grecco is applying for parole. The 77-year-old ex-priest, serving 18 months for abusing O’Sullivan and two others from 1975 to 1982, is scheduled for a parole hearing on April 13.

If successful, Grecco could be released from prison before the end of that month, having served only six months of his prison term.

“I knew he was getting out eventually. He only got 18 months,” O’Sullivan said. “But to get parole? For what he did? After what he did to me and others? Where is the justice in that?”

Despite the impact Grecco’s trial had on his mental health, O’Sullivan says he will attend and speak at Grecco’s hearing.

From the ages of 9 to 12, while Grecco was the priest at St. Kevin’s Roman Catholic church in Welland, he abused O’Sullivan.

At 16, he was sentenced for petty crimes to 18 months at the infamous St. John’s Training School for Boys in Uxbridge – the location of one of the worst sexual abuse scandals in Canadian history.

He was repeatedly sexually abused by one of the Christian Brothers running the school.

O’Sullivan, who suppressed the memories of his abuse, spent years in and out of jail. While in the Niagara Detention Centre in 2010, he read an article in The Standard about Grecco being sentenced to 18 months in prison for sexually abusing three boys, and remembered what happened to him.

He reported the crimes to the Niagara Regional Police, whose investigation resulted in charges being laid against the now ex-priest for the abuse of three boys. Grecco pleaded guilty to three counts of gross indecency for the sexual abuse in May.

In the October sentencing hearing, Justice Joseph Nadel sentenced Grecco to 18 months in prison, with three years of parole after his time is served. At the time, Grecco waived his right to early parole but has now made an application for early release.

Nadel also ordered Grecco’s DNA be recorded for the national sex offender registry and banned him for life from attending public places where those under 16 are likely to be, including public parks, school grounds and community centres.

Nadel said he “regretted” that he wasn’t giving Grecco a longer sentence. The judge said Grecco pleaded guilty on the understanding that he would receive an 18-month sentence, and that guilty plea saved the community time and money that would have been consumed at a trial.

Grecco’s lawyer Robert Yanch asked for an 18-month sentence while assistant Crown attorney Pat Vadacchino asked Nadel to put the ex-priest behind bars for three years.”

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