BEGINNING HIS SENTENCE (His 2-year term delayed by cancer diagnosis, ex-priest starts serving after sex abuse confession)

Barry Ryan, a 58 year old suspended Catholic priest from Palm City, Florida, was arrested March 5, 2004, on a charge of first degree sodomy. He was hospitalized March 18 after allegedly being beaten by another inmate while showering. He has been in protective custody since arriving at the jail. Ryan is accused of giving and receiving oral sex with a 6 year old boy on multiple occasions during visits to Suffolk County. The abuse occurred in a private home between May and October 2003. Ryan was beaten by another inmate with a stick while in the shower. The priest was escorted to the shower by a correction officer but when he asked the officer for a towel, he was left for a moment. As soon as the officer walked away, another inmate outside his cell talking on the telephone grabbed a broom or some other kind of long stick and jabbed Ryan repeatedly in the stomach, breaking his rib and puncturing a lung. The inmate had already left by time the officer returned. No one has been arrested.

Ryan was being held at Suffolk County jail in Riverhead in lieu of $200,000 bail. If convicted, he was facing up to 25 years in prison.  He was arraigned in his hospital room March 18 on the charges of sexually abusing the boy.  Inside his room at Central Suffolk Hospital in Riverhead, Ryan pleaded not guilty to first and second degree course of sexual conduct against a child and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.  

The suspended & ailing Ryan said that he looks forward to his own imminent death as he was sentenced.  He is suffering from advanced liver cancer and has just a few months to live.  Ryan was sentenced to 2 years but he is not expected to see the inside of a prison.  His terminal illness may take his life before the date he is supposed to go into custody, which was set for July 7, 2005.

It has been more than two years since Ryan admitted forcing the boy to perform sex acts on him and he is still alive.  The mother of the boy now wants him behind bars but her requests to Suffolk prosecutors to intervene have not been successful.  Suffolk prosecutors say their hands are tied.  While Ryan has outlived the most optimistic projections of when he'd succumb, they say he is getting sicker by the day, so they can't recommend to the judge that he be ordered to prison.

The boys mother smiled outside the Riverhead courtroom yesterday, confident that four years after Ryan struck fear into her 5 year old son's heart, he now felt terrified as he began his 2 year jail sentence.  Judge Gazzillo ordered an arrest warrant in August so Ryan could be returned to begin his sentence in New York.  Ryan had moved to Missouri and fought his extradition.  He appeared frail and gaunt when he was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair yesterday.  But while informing Gazzillo of the various medication he required, Ryan spoke far more clearly than the whisper he used three years ago at his sentencing.  

(New York)