By Greg Frost
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - A judge sentenced defrocked priest Paul Shanley to 12 to 15 years in prison on Tuesday for his child rape conviction in one of the most high-profile cases to stem from a U.S. Catholic clergy abuse scandal.
Slideshow: Defrocked Priest Found Guilty in Molestation Case
After Shanley\'s accuser described the former priest in court as a \"monster,\" \"pervert\" and \"the lowest of the low,\" Judge Stephen Neel ordered the 74-year-old Shanley to serve time in prison, followed by a decade of probation.
There was scattered applause as the elderly Shanley, wearing leg irons, was escorted from the packed courtroom. Afterward, his victims expressed relief.
\"For the last week, for the first time in 35 years I\'ve slept through night,\" Arthur Austin, who says Shanley abused him as a young adult but was not one of the accusers in the ex-priest\'s criminal case, told reporters. \"I don\'t have to be afraid anymore.\"
Neel said Shanley would be eligible for parole after completing two-thirds of his sentence, but Frank Mondano, Shanley\'s defense attorney, said he was worried Shanley could die in prison \"given his age and frailty.\"
He also expressed concern about the convicted child rapist\'s safety behind bars -- especially after John Geoghan, one of the other defrocked priests at the center of the clergy abuse scandal that rocked the Archdiocese of Boston, was slain in prison in 2003 by a fellow inmate.
\"Hopefully the Department of Corrections is up to the task,\" Mondano told reporters, adding he will appeal both the sentence and the conviction.
A jury found Shanley guilty last week of raping and molesting a boy in the 1980s at a Boston-area church. The case hinged on memories that the accuser, now a 27-year-old firefighter, said he recovered in 2002.
The accuser, who has asked that he not be identified in the media, said during the sentencing that Shanley\'s conviction ended a long, painful chapter in his life. Still, he expressed hatred and disgust for the priest who raped and molested him as a young boy.
\"I want him to die in prison, whether it is of natural causes or otherwise. However he dies, I hope it is slow and painful,\" the accuser said in a statement read aloud by prosecutor Lynn Rooney.
\"This monster must spend the rest of his life in prison,\" the accuser said.
Earlier, the victim\'s wife, who had testified during the trial about her husband\'s emotional breakdown when he remembered the abuse, said in court that Shanley had committed \"indescribable crimes.\"
Weeping, she then addressed the former priest in a quiet but resolute voice.
\"No words will ever express my disgust for you,\" she said. \"You are sick to your core.\"
Shanley was given the chance to speak at the sentencing, but declined.
Shanley was indicted in 2002 on charges of child rape and indecent assault and battery on a child. Prosecutors dropped most of the charges because three of the original four accusers either would not testify or could not be found.
The Vatican (news - web sites) defrocked Shanley last year, more than two decades after his superiors received complaints about the priest\'s views on sex between men and boys.
Internal church documents released in 2002 showed the Boston Archdiocese knew in 1979 that Shanley had attended a meeting of men involved in sexual relationships with boys -- a meeting that gave rise to NAMBLA, the North American Man Boy Love Association. http://prophetofthenorth.exactpages.com