The former assistant pastor of St. Martin's Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore has pleaded guilty to one count each of second-degree rape and sexual child abuse stemming from an incident involving a 13-year-old church member.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Hilary D. Caplan yesterday imposed a suspended 20-year prison sentence and five years probation on Richard G. Deakin, 34, who left the priesthood two years ago.
Deakin, who pleaded guilty as part of an agreement with prosecutors, faced a sentence of at least 55 years.
"It is in the best interest of everyone that this case be disposed of quickly as possible," said Assistant City State's Attorney Wanda Keyes Robinson.
Robinson, chief of the sex offense task force, said the plea agreement was intended to prevent the victim from reliving the ordeal in court.
The victim, now 18, showed no emotion as she sat in court yesterday with her parents and a lawyer, who is representing the family in a civil suit against Deakin and the Capuchin Friars religious order.
"I'd just like to apologize . . . for what I did," said Deakin, his voice cracking. "I'm ashamed of my actions and I'm sorry. I just hope [the victim] can overcome this."
Defense lawyer David B. Irwin said Deakin made a "horrible misjudgment" in his relationship with the victim, but that the priest "loved" her.
Irwin suggested that Deakin, who knew he wanted to become a priest at an early age, was subjected to homosexual advances while in the priesthood. "He is heterosexual."
"He had some severe problems in the priesthood which were unable to be dealt with by the church," Irwin said.
The lawyer said Deakin is now married, living in Baden, Pa., and working as a salesman in a department store.
Caplan praised the victim for having the "courage to come forward and speak out."
The victim did not reveal her relationship with the priest until last May. Deakin was transferred from the parish in 1987.
"In the long run, you have done a great service. . . . This will begin a healing process," Caplan told the young woman.
Deakin's affection was "ill-placed," Caplan said. "He should have known better than to tamper with a child's emotions."
The victim's family and their lawyer declined to comment.
Ordained in 1985, Deakin was assistant pastor at St. Martin's on North Fulton Avenue. Known as Father Rich, he worked with youth groups and took children to movies.
Deakin and the victim became friends after he visited her at a hospital in 1985, court records show. The first sexual encounter occurred in January 1986 on the front seat of his car in Druid Hill Park.
Court records show they also had sex in her home, the church Sunday school, a hotel, a District of Columbia park and Hershey Park in Pennsylvania. "Her mother would leave her in the care of Deakin," Robinson said.
Caplan told Deakin, "The choice you made was in the wrong direction and you have paid a very severe price."