Priest sentenced to six years on sex charges
Police responded to an ad he placed for ‘taboo sex’
“The Scripture says scandals will come but woe to the person who brings the scandal, better that they had a stone thrown around their neck and were thrown into the sea to drown,” he said. “I never believed I would be in that situation.”
Just eight days after he was arrested by Franklin County deputies through an online sting, Hughes pleaded guilty to a bill of information charging him with one count of attempted rape.The maximum sentence for the offense is eight years, but Judge Mark Serrott imposed a lesser sentence that was recommended by the prosecution and defense.
The judge also classified Hughes as a sex offender who must register his address with law-enforcement officials every 90 days for the rest of his life after his release from prison.
Hughes’ swift plea was motivated in part by concerns that the U.S. attorney’s office was interested in bringing federal charges, defense attorney Joseph Scott said after the hearing.
“The minimum sentence in federal court would be 10 years to life,” he said. “They were holding that hammer over our heads.”Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said the case was forwarded to both state and federal prosecutors but “typically a state court guilty plea precludes a federal prosecution on the same facts.”
Scott said Hughes also wanted to spare the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, for which he served as acting dean, the embarrassment of a trial and allow the Downtown church’s 100th anniversary celebration to proceed this weekend “without this distraction.”
Hughes, formerly of Zumstein Drive on the North Side, told the judge that he is asking “for the forgiveness of my church, which I have served to the best of my ability, though not well enough, over 25 years. I’m just terribly, terribly sorry.”
Hughes ran an anonymous online ad seeking “taboo sex with no age restrictions.” An undercover deputy with the sheriff’s office Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force responded to the ad, offering to provide two boys, ages 9 and 14, for sex acts that Hughes could watch or participate in.
When Hughes showed up for a meeting, deputies arrested him.
If not for their intervention, Hughes “might have met a real kid, and we would be here under more-tragic circumstances,” Assistant County Prosecutor Daniel Hawkins said.
Scott said afterward that his client had been sexually abused as a child.
“He was very open about that,” he said. “That’s not something he wants to hide.”
Hughes was suspended by the cathedral at the time of his arrest, pending an investigation by the Metropolis of Pittsburgh, which oversees the church.
Scott said Hughes will ask to be defrocked.