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07/18/2003
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Priest found guilty of prostitution charge


PLATTE CITY - Father Vince M. Rogers, pastor of St. James Parish in St. Joseph, was found guilty July 3 in Platte County Associate Circuit Court of patronizing prostitution.

Father Rogers, 36, appeared in court with his attorney, John P. O'Connor, and entered an Alford plea, in effect not admitting guilt but acknowledging that the prosecution has the evidence to convict him. Under the law, the court is obliged to find "strong evidence of actual guilt" before accepting an Alford plea.

The court imposed a suspended sentence and two years probation. Father Rogers will be required to undergo testing for sexually transmitted diseases, obtain counseling and perform 40 hours of community service.

In a news release, Platte County Prosecutor Eric G. Zahnd said his office would recommend the same sentence against the 16 other defendants arrested on the same charge in his jurisdiction as a result of a sting operation. In addition, a male and a female defendant were found guilty of prostitution.

Father Rogers was arrested June 9 as part of a multi-jurisdictional prostitution sting conducted over several days in the Kansas City metropolitan area in which 100 people were arrested.

The Probable Cause Statement entered into the court records states that Father Rogers came to the Super 8 motel in Riverside after responding to an ad in the Pitch Weekly newspaper placed by the Vice Unit of the Kansas City Police Department. Once there, he agreed to pay an undercover Kansas City police woman $100 for sexual services. Platte County Sheriff's Department officers then placed him under arrest.

Father Rogers informed Bishop Raymond J. Boland of his arrest on June 10 and was immediately placed on administrative leave. A June 11 statement issued by Vicar General Father Patrick J. Rush said, "Father Rogers informed the bishop that the arrest followed telephone calls that he had placed to arrange for a massage. When he arrived for the appointment, he was taken into custody in an apparent undercover police operation."

Bishop Boland told The Catholic Key on July 11 that Father Rogers remains on administrative leave pending a psychological evaluation scheduled for mid-August. Masses at St. James Parish in St. Joseph are being celebrated by Benedictine monks from Atchison, Kan.

O'Connor issued the following statement July 3:

"I advised Father Rogers of his right to a trial which would not occur until a later date and his right to have an Alford plea entered now. An Alford plea is a procedure where a person unable to admit participation in an act constituting a crime can consent to a judgment being entered to end the proceedings. Father Rogers believed that prolonging the proceedings would result in further disruptions at his parish and in adverse publicity to the priesthood and the church. Consequently, he has entered an Alford plea and his sentence has been suspended."

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