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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 9:55 a.m., Thursday, July 20, 2006

One year in prison for deacon in sex assault

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

WAILUKU, Maui — Former Catholic deacon James "Ron" Gonsalves, 69, was sentenced today to a year in jail and 20 years of probation on 62 counts of sexually assaulting a boy over the course of three years.

Acting Second Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo agreed to punish Gonsalves under a special "expedited sentencing program" available in cases of "intrafamily" sexual assault if the offender admits guilt and cooperates with authorities. Gonsalves is distantly related to the victim, who was 12 when the crimes began in 2002.

The assaults continued until June 2005 at Gonsalves' home and at St. Ann Church in Waihe'e, where he was administrator.

Deputy prosecutor Robert Rivera did not object to the sentence proposed in a plea agreement, saying he had met numerous times with the boy's family who agreed it was "in the best interest of victim." The victim's court-appointed guardian concurred, Rivera said.

After Gonsalves is released from prison, he must undergo three years of home confinement and is barred from contact with children.

Gonsalves was charged in June 2005 and pleaded guilty to all the charges in May. He did not make any statement during today's hearing.

Gonsalves, a lifelong Maui resident with no previous criminal record, was ordained as a deacon in 1987 and worked as a ticket agent for Hawaiian Airlines for 29 years before taking the job at St. Ann Church in 1999. Although most deacons are volunteers, Gonsalves was a diocesan employee.

Parishioners credited him with reviving the small parish by establishing new programs and conducting fundraising, including a twice-monthly bread sale, that pulled the church out of debt.

The state's Catholic Diocese placed Gonsalves on indefinite leave in June 2005 and relieved him of all church duties. Church officials had said he would be permanently removed from the ministry.