HARTFORD, Conn. – A suspended Roman Catholic priest dubbed Monsignor Meth apologized Thursday for running a methamphetamine distribution ring and letting down scores of friends and parishioners.
Moments later, Monsignor Kevin Wallin was sentenced to almost 5 1/2 years in prison, less than the 10 years he faced but more than the four years he had sought.
"I have never from the day I was arrested denied my guilt," Wallin, 63, said at the sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in Hartford. "The day I was arrested was a very good day. It took me out of that situation."
Prosecutors had said Wallin received meth in the mail from California suppliers and supplied a New York distributor. He also bought an adult video and sex toy shop named Land of Oz & Dorothy's Place, apparently to launder profits from the drug ring, they said.
Wallin, who pleaded guilty to a meth conspiracy charge in 2013, has been in jail for 28 months. With time served, he will be behind bars for about three more years.
U.S. District Judge Alfred V. Covello sentenced Wallin to 65 months and also imposed supervised release of five years. He told Wallin he could "not ignore your decision to infect your community" with meth.
"For you, sir, this is an unhappy day," Covello told Wallin, who was nicknamed Monsignor Meth in media reports.
But he told Wallin that letters of support from friends and former parishioners surpassed "anything I have ever seen."
"It's a little like attending your own funeral, your own wake," the judge said.
Wallin's public defender, Kelly Barrett, said her client "put all his efforts in helping others" while neglecting himself. She called for leniency because Wallin has no criminal history and likely wouldn't return to crime.
Barrett also said Wallin was coping with financially tough times at the parish at the start of the Recession in 2008.
"He was floundering and overwhelmed," she said. "The man who had given help to others was unable to accept help."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Caruso told the judge that Wallin "abandoned his priestly life" and became a meth addict, associating with other meth users.
He acknowledged Wallin's service as a priest and his charitable work and said he's "genuinely remorseful." But Wallin, who worked in Bridgeport and Danbury, was the "most culpable" as head of the meth ring, the prosecutor said.
"He turned his apartment into a meth den for people to buy meth, to use meth," he said. "The public didn't know how he became a stone-cold drug dealer."
A psychiatrist who works with drug addicts, a church colleague of Wallin's and several others asked Covello for leniency.
"We try to judge wisely and justly," Monsignor Andrew Varga of Westport told the judge. "His human failings got in the way of his better judgment. We ask you to judge wisely and justly."