Judge denies lower bond for ex-priest accused of abuse

CLAYTON, Mo. (AP) — A St. Louis County judge on Monday refused to lower bail for a former Catholic priest who was previously imprisoned and labeled sexually violent.

Fred Lenczycki, 74, of suburban Chicago, was charged in February with two counts of sodomy for allegedly abusing two boys in the early 1990s at a north St. Louis County parish. He is jailed on $500,000 cash-only bond but was seeking an unspecified reduction.

Lenczycki has admitted abusing up to 30 boys in Illinois, Missouri and California over 25 years, according to court and church files. He was removed from the ministry in 2002, when he was charged with sexually abusing three boys at a church in Hinsdale, Illinois, in the 1980s.

The victims told authorities that "Father Fred" repeatedly molested them, often using the pretense of swaddling them in "Baby Jesus" costumes for pageants that never took place.

He pleaded guilty in 2004 and was sentenced to five years in prison. In 2008, a year before his release from prison, he became the first U.S. priest to be labeled sexually violent when he was committed under Illinois' Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act.

St. Louis County Circuit Judge Gloria Clark Reno was expected to hear testimony from the two alleged Missouri victims, Chris Gensler III, now 37, and Ron Kanady, 38, at a hearing Monday. But prior to the hearing, officials with the Illinois agency that monitors Lenczycki and others classified as sexually violent said it would not be responsible for transporting him to court from his Chicago-area home.

Assistant prosecutor Melissa Price Smith said that if Lenczycki had to take public transportation to St. Louis without supervision, he could be in contact with children.

Based largely on the logistical concern, Reno denied the bond reduction.

Defense attorney Matthew Radefeld said Lenczycki is seeking a re-evaluation to clear himself from the Illinois sexually violent person listing.

In the St. Louis County case, charging documents allege that from 1991 through 1994, Lenczycki repeatedly grabbed one boy's genitals and tried to force another boy to expose himself.

"I feel like a weight has been lifted from my shoulder," Kanady said after the judge's ruling Monday. Gensler called the ruling "a blessing from God and a step in the right direction for kids who could be exposed to him."

Victims of clergy sexual abuse have demanded more accountability and transparency from the Catholic church since last year, when a Pennsylvania report detailed seven decades of child sexual abuse by more than 300 predator priests. The Vatican convened a sexual abuse summit in February to hear the testimony of several victims.

In addition to the criminal cases, Lenczycki is named in several lawsuits.