MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A former South Florida Catholic priest who pled no contest earlier this month to multiple underage sex abuse charges has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.
During Neil Doherty's sentencing hearing Monday morning, the judge ordered that time he's already spent in jail be credited to his sentence. With that time taken into account, Doherty will spend a little more than 12 years in prison.
Two of his victims told the judge their lives were derailed because of the abuse.
"He laced wine he gave me with drugs and when I awoke I was naked and had been sexually abused," said Dennis Montero.
Attorney's claim Doherty abused dozens of boys over the years and that the Catholic Church often covered it up by moving him from parish to parish when allegations surfaced.
When the judge sentenced Doherty, his victims were relieved.
"I'm just happy its over with it," said accuser Jorge Soler. "It's a relief for me and my brothers. I'm just thankful to God that justice has prevailed."
Accuser Dennis Montero agreed.
"It's the best sentence the law can give us so I'm happy with the sentence. I don't think he's got 15 years left in him."
Despite 34 reports to the Archdiocese of abuse, Doherty has maintained his innocence.
"He's remorseful that the victims have gone through what they've gone through," said defense attorney David Bogenschutz. "The problem is that I think that his physical and emotional condition along with his psychiatric condition are such that it's very difficult for him to reach any understanding or belief that some of this actually happened."
During his time with the Archdiocese of Miami Doherty, 69, had served at several South Florida churches, including St. Vincent's in Margate, St. Anthony in Fort Lauderdale and St. Phillip in Northwest Miami-Dade.
"With today's sentencing of Neil Doherty, justice was served. Neil Doherty was removed from priestly ministry by Archbishop Favalora on April 2002," said the Archdiocese in a statement. "We continue to pray for the healing of those whom he victimized as well as for all young people who have been abused by an adult in a position of trust. That a priest would give scandal in this way both angers and shames us."
Doherty has a long list of accusers who say he used his position of power to sexually assault them. In several cases, Doherty is accused of slipping drugs into drinks to make boys sleepy and molesting them while they were unconscious.
Some of the accusations date back to the 1970s but only came to light in recent years.
Despite the many civil suits filed against him, this was the first criminal punishment for Doherty as a result of the accusations. In most cases, criminal charges could not be filed because the statute of limitations had passed for alleged events.
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