10-YEAR TERM FOR EX-PRIEST
Thomas J. Bender, a 73 year old former priest from Pennsylvania who was arrested in Nassauon his way to a tryst with someone he thought was a 14 year old boy, was carrying beer, candy,condoms and gay pornography. After communicating for more than a year online with a Nassaupolice detective posing as a teenager, Bender, of Macungie, Pennsylvania, drove 2 1/2 hours to meetthe teenager at an undisclosed location on Long Island. Bender was charged with five countsof disseminating indecent material to a minor, a felony, and a single count of attempted criminalsexual act, a misdemeanor. Each count of the first charge carries a maximum sentence of 1 to4 years in prison. He is being held on $120,000 bail.
On July 7, 2006, Bender pleaded guilty to all the crimes he was charged with.
Bender may be the first defendant on Long Island to have his case dismissed based on arecent state appeals court decision. On August 23, 2006, a lawyer for Bender submitted amotion to Nassau County Court Judge John Kase, asking him to throw out Bender's guilty plea to sixcounts of first degree attempted disseminating indecent material to minors. The appeals courtdecision that affects Bender's case says sending children sexually explicit e-mails is illegal onlyif photographs are included. Bender's e-mails included sexually explicit language, but noimages. Several law enforcement officials, including Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice,have vowed to fight the decision. Prosecutors now have until September 15 to explain inwriting why they want the judge to hold Bender to his plea.
Bender pleaded guilty on February 28, 2007, to the federal charge of enticing a minor, afterlocal charges collapsed under emerging definitions of Internet sex crime.
Bender was sentenced on May 21, 2008, to 10 years in prison, double the time recommended byfederal sentencing guidelines.