SOMERVILLE – The former pastor of St. Matthias Parish in Franklin was sentenced to 7 years in state jail right after he pleaded responsible thieving more than $500,000 from the church that he used on gambling, luxury lodge stays, designer clothes and jewellery.
The sentence handed down Wednesday by Superior Courtroom Choose Peter Tober came after the court docket received much more than 100 letters in support of the Rev. Douglas Haefner, 69.
One particular girl attending the two-hour sentencing said she forgives “Father Doug.”
“That’s what we’re taught. I come to feel we unsuccessful him by not supporting him,” the lady informed the choose.
Tober mentioned Haefner is very likely to serve much less than 18 months before turning out to be eligible for parole. He is scheduled to surrender to authorities on Aug. 19.
Haefner expressed “deep remorse” to the judge.
“I harm and violated the folks of St. Matthias. I violated that trust and shook that rely on. I stand right here humiliated of the criminal offense I dedicated,” a tearful Haefner mentioned. “My habit bought out of management. Addicted folks damage the persons they enjoy the most.”
In May perhaps Haefner pleaded guilty to second-diploma theft for stealing more than $516,000 in church funds that had been invested for his private use.
Haefner’s lawyer Matthew Adams stated Haefner experienced inadequate retailers to offer with his demons and the demons of many others. He explained Haefner experienced worry and trauma from his lifetime and the lives of other individuals that compelled him to shoulder significant burdens. Haefner also experienced wellness issues.
“He was at a level in his life filled with grief and trauma. Now he attends Gamblers Anonymous routinely and is very pleased of his recovery,” stated Adams, adding former Gov. James McGreevey experienced available a spot for Haefner to use his experience in the New Jersey Reentry Application.
“This church was like a household to him. To drop that is even worse than any punishment this courtroom can render,” Adams explained.
Haefner was pastor of St. Matthias for 27 several years. The church is among the the major in the Diocese of Metuchen, which addresses Hunterdon, Middlesex, Somerset and Warren counties. The parish also is property to a pre-K to eighth quality university.
None of the funds were stolen from the parish university, a forensic audit decided. The parish and the school have different budgets.
“He seriously cared about that college, ” stated Adams, including his consumer in no way touched the school’s methods.
In 2018 when the church audit was last but not least initiated, Haefner approached Bishop James F. Checchio to disclose he experienced mishandled parish cash and borrowed dollars from the parish, which he experienced hoped to repay. At that exact time, he also disclosed he was having difficulties with other particular problems.
The diocese then notified the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office environment and, jointly with the parish, cooperated in the two-year investigation.
In addition, immediately right after the disclosure, Haefner resigned as pastor in November 2018 and his priestly obligations have been withdrawn. He underwent evaluation and acquired procedure as the investigation unfolded.
The diocese continued with its audit, which sooner or later verified the theft documented by the pastor. The prosecutor’s office carried out its very own forensic audit, which determined a full of $516,984.56 in parish money was mishandled.
Lately the Diocese of Metuchen applied an independent third-bash reporting procedure that will allow for any person who suspects financial impropriety or other violations of the Diocese of Metuchen’s Pastoral Code of Conduct, to file an anonymous and private report.
Via the diocese’s contracting with NAVEX Global’s EthicsPoint, a private reporting framework employed all through the environment in non-public sector organizations and in dioceses throughout the state, people of the diocese can file a report of a suspected ethics violation in the Diocese of Metuchen or in any of its parishes, schools or cemeteries, permitting their concerns to be tackled rather and with no fear of retaliation.
Reviews can be built by calling the hotline 844-796-1296 or experiences can be filed directly as a result of the impartial web page: diometuchen.ethicspoint.com, the link to which is also obtainable on the diocese’s website, diometuchen.org.
The moment a report is filed with EthicsPoint, possibly through the internet site or the toll-cost-free cell phone variety, the info is shared with an EthicsPoint conversation expert, who will then forward the report to the evaluation committee, except if the report names a person on the committee. All reviews may possibly be filed anonymously, should the man or woman who is submitting chose to continue to be nameless.
E mail: [email protected]
Suzanne Russell is a breaking information reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get endless accessibility, make sure you subscribe or activate your electronic account currently.