FORMER youth ministry worker sentenced to 40 to 50 years for sexually assaulting 24 boys

Friday, August 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SALEM, Mass. (AP) _ A former youth ministry worker was sentenced to 40 to 50 years in prison Friday for raping and assaulting boys he befriended at a Roman Catholic church.

Christopher Reardon, 29, had faced up to life in prison after he pleaded guilty last month to 75 of 130 counts against him, including child rape, indecent assault and battery on a child and disseminating pornography. The charges involved 24 boys ages 7 to 14.

``I am not sentencing you, Mr. Reardon, today to make you an example to others,'' Salem Superior Court Judge Isaac Borenstein said. ``I am sentencing you for your conduct. It is clear to me that unless you are in jail for most of your life, there is a serious risk to other people.''

The judge said Reardon caused more harm ``than a sadistic stranger on the street.''

Prosecutors had recommended 50 to 75 years. Reardon's defense claimed he could be rehabilitated and asked the judge for a 10- to 15-year sentence, with treatment.

``On behalf of Christopher Reardon and his family, we're all disappointed in the sentence,'' defense lawyer John Andrews said.

Reardon's father, John Timothy Reardon, and his mother, Catherine, sat impassively. His sister, Kelly Kasprzak, cried.

About three dozen family members of victims sat sullenly in the courtroom and passed around boxes of tissues. Some cried as the sentence was read and comforted their children.

Reardon admitted molesting boys he befriended through his job as the youth ministry coordinator at St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church in Middleton, about 20 miles north of Boston. He also worked as a Boy Scout leader and a swim instructor at a YMCA.

According to court records, police confiscated at least two dozen pornographic videos, photographs of nude children, inflatable dolls and sex toys from Reardon's home and office.

Evidence included a videotape police found of Reardon masturbating with a boy in the church rectory and dozens of pages of charts and computerized spreadsheets filled with meticulous notes and descriptions of boys and how Reardon allegedly assaulted them.

``All of the evidence shows you to be a person obsessed with having and obtaining sexual gratification from young boys, and I'm persuaded you present a very serious risk to other young boys in the future,'' Borenstein said.

During a two-day sentencing hearing earlier this week, some victims and their family members asked for the maximum sentence.

``Chris, you ruined my life,'' one child said, looking across the courtroom at Reardon. ``You deserve the worst.''

But psychologist Carol Ball said Reardon ``is not a totally evil man.'' She and Dr. Murray Cohen testified they believed Reardon could eventually be rehabilitated if given a sentence that would allow him to seek treatment before it's too late.

The judge rejected Reardon's statements that the boys initiated the conduct, that he was trying to educate them about sex, or that it was his former wife's fault for refusing to consummate their marriage.

``The crimes you have committed are a serious violations of the bodies, the minds and of the spirits of these people, the most vulnerable members of our society,'' Borenstein told Reardon. ``A truthful individual, as some have called you, does not use his jobs to create a secret world of sexual abuse.''

Essex County Assistant District Attorney Robert Brennan was meeting with victims immediately after the hearing and was expected to deliver a statement.