NEW YORK – An apologetic Roman Catholic priest was sentenced to prison for stealing more than $800,000 from his parish to finance vacations, country clubs and fancy clothes.
"I am truly, truly sorry for what has taken place," Monsignor John Woolsey said Friday before a judge sentenced him to one to four years in prison. "I used money to which I had no right. I am deeply, deeply sorry for my conduct."
Woolsey, 68, who was pastor of the Church of Saint John the Martyr, pleaded guilty to grand larceny in May in return for the sentence. He could have gotten up to 15 years in prison if convicted and will be eligible for parole in one year.
Assistant District Attorney Matthew Amatruda said Woolsey spent the money on luxuries for himself, including expensive watches, trips to Europe, golfing vacations, fancy clothes and cosmetic dentistry. Woolsey doctored church records to hide what he had stolen, the prosecutor said.
State Supreme Court Justice Bruce Allen received dozens of letters on behalf of Woolsey, which he said he considered in deciding the sentence.
One letter, signed by Cardinal Egan, asked that when Allen sentenced Woolsey, he "take into consideration the more than 40 years of service to others that Monsignor has given as a priest of the Archdiocese of New York."
Woolsey's attorney, Nicholas DeFeis said he "couldn't think of a case where a jail sentence was less necessary. I really believe the appropriate sentence would be a sentence of community service."
The judge also ordered Woolsey to pay $50,000 restitution in addition to $200,000 he has already paid. The judge said that if Woolsey is destitute, as his lawyers claimed, then he would have a hearing on the restitution amount.