A 76-year-old former Catholic priest who already has served jail time for molesting boys in Maryland was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison in South Carolina for raping boys from a middle school four decades ago.
Wayland Yoder Brown wore his priest collar while attacking the boys, then prayed the rosary with them, Solicitor Duffie Stone said.
“He not only violated the trust of children, but violated their faith. He used the Catholic faith against them,” Stone said in a news conference after Brown’s guilty plea.
Brown already served five years of a 10-year sentence in Maryland for sexually abusing two other boys. Pope John Paul II dismissed him from the priesthood after that 2004 conviction.
Brown’s guilty plea comes as the Catholic Church in the United States is under increased scrutiny for its handling of sex abuse cases. A Pennsylvania grand jury report in August found about 300 Catholic priests had abused more than 1,000 children statewide since the 1940s. Federal investigators are taking a closer look at those cases to see if Church leaders covered up for abusive priests.
In South Carolina, Brown faced up to 210 years in prison on the nine counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Stone said he took the plea deal because the 20-year sentence almost guarantees Brown dies in prison and also requires him to talk to investigators about anything he knows from his years with the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, and other churches.
Victim Chris Templeton told reporters in a news conference outside the courtroom he isn’t sure what Brown knows.
But if others in the Church knew about the abuse and did nothing, “Hold them just as responsible as the man who raped me,” Templeton said.
The investigation into Brown started in 2016 when the Diocese of Savannah paid $4.5 million to settle a lawsuit by a man who said Brown sexually abused him. Georgia authorities couldn’t conduct a criminal investigation at the time because of the statute of limitations. But authorities determined Brown also abused the boys in South Carolina, where there was no time limit on an investigation.
Brown molested the boys while they attended St. James Catholic School in Savannah. He attacked them in a church and abandoned train depot in Hardeeville as well as other places, Stone said.
Stone and Templeton both urged anyone else who knows about other molestation victims or any possible cover-up to contact authorities.
Brown pleaded guilty in 2004 to abusing two brothers in Maryland in the 1970s, while Brown was still a seminary student. During that hearing, he apologized to his victims.
“There is no excuse for what I did. There cannot be,” Brown said. “I hated myself for what I did.”
After raping them, Brown told the boys they faced eternal condemnation for them and their families if they reported it, Stone said.
“I do not expect the defendant to live through that sentence,” Stone said. “I think it is appropriate he lives the rest of his life in the South Carolina Department of Corrections.”