An appeals panel on Wednesday refused to reduce defrocked priest John Geoghan's nine- to 10-year sentence for groping a boy, a punishment his lawyer called overly harsh.

Geoghan's attorney, Geoffrey Packard, argued that Geoghan, 66, had no prior convictions and was penalized in part due to the massive publicity surrounding his and other cases of priest sex abuse.

But the panel dismissed his appeal just hours after hearing arguments.

Geoghan was convicted in January for squeezing the buttocks of a 10-year-old boy in a swimming pool in 1991. He was sentenced in February to nine to 10 years, with six years of that to be served in prison, followed by life probation.

Packard asked the court to reduce his sentence to two years of prison time, with eight years of probation. He said he still intends to pursue an appeal of Geoghan's conviction.

Middlesex County prosecutor Lynn Rooney urged the court to preserve the original sentence, which is the maximum allowed under law. She said the sentence was based in part on Geoghan's own admissions that he had molested other boys.

Since 1995, more than 130 people have claimed Geoghan fondled or raped them during the three decades he served in Boston-area parishes.

Earlier this month, the archdiocese of Boston pulled out of a settlement agreement with 86 alleged victims after its finance committee overruled Cardinal Bernard Law and said the archdiocese could not afford the $15 million to $30 million deal.

Geoghan's case ignited a scandal in the church over priests who have been accused of pedophilia. At least 225 priests nationwide have since been either dismissed from their duties or resigned.

In other developments:

— Retired priest Ronald Paquin pleaded innocent in Salem, Mass., on Wednesday to three counts of raping an altar boy. Superior Court Judge Nancy Merrick ordered Paquin held on $500,000 bail.

— Chicago police issued an arrest warrant for a priest who left the country after being accused of an inappropriate relationship with a teen-age girl. The Rev. Sleeva Raju Policetti is thought to have returned to Hyderabad, India, where he was ordained. Policetti, 43, is charged with criminal sexual assault. It is the first time since 1993 that a priest from the Archdiocese of Chicago has been charged criminally for sexual misconduct with a minor.

— The former pastor of the largest Catholic parish in San Antonio, Texas, accused of having a sexual affair with an adolescent girl more than 20 years ago, was forced into retirement just a few weeks shy of his 50th anniversary as a priest. Monsignor John Flynn, 74, announced his retirement Sunday as pastor of St. Matthew's Parish in Longview. No lawsuit or charges have been filed over the sex abuse allegation.

— A priest sent to treatment facilities by the church after a 1990 report that he molested a child has been soliciting money from former parishioners who believed he was doing mission work, a newspaper reported Wednesday. From facilities in New Mexico and California, the Rev. Joseph L. Clauss, 71, has been sending letters to southern Indiana residents, the Evansville Courier & Press said. Clauss offered to say Masses in return for donations and led at least one family to believe he had been working at mission churches on Indian reservations, the newspaper reported.

— In Kentucky, Lexington Bishop J. Kendrick Williams was suspended Wednesday while the diocese investigates accusations that Williams abused an altar boy 21 years ago. Williams said the allegations are false. "I do not remember the young man, and I have never been brutal to anyone in my entire life," he said.