FORMER PENNSYLVANIA PRIEST PLEADS GUILTY IN NET TEEN SEX BID
Thomas J. Bender, a 73 year old former priest from Pennsylvania who was arrested in Nassau on 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 Nassau police detective posing as a teenager, Bender, of Macungie, Pennsylvania, drove 2 1/2 hours to meet the teenager at an undisclosed location on Long Island. Bender was charged with five counts of disseminating indecent material to a minor, a felony, and a single count of attempted criminal sexual act, a misdemeanor. Each count of the first charge carries a maximum sentence of 1 to 4 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 a recent state appeals court decision. On August 23, a lawyer for Bender submitted a motion to Nassau County Court Judge John Kase, asking him to throw out Bender's guilty plea to six counts of first degree attempted disseminating indecent material to minors. The appeals court decision that affects Bender's case says sending children sexually explicit e-mails is illegal only if photographs are included. Bender's e-mails included sexually explicit language, but no images. Several law enforcement officials, including Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, have vowed to fight the decision. Prosecutors now have until September 15 to explain in writing why they want the judge to hold Bender to his plea.
Bender pleaded guilty on February 28, 1007, to the federal charge of enticing a minor, after local charges collapsed under emerging definitions of Internet sex crime.