Priest accused of sexual abuse offered plea deal in St. Tammany Parish courtroom

Published: Jun. 12, 2023 at 6:59 PM CDT
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COVINGTON, La. (WVUE) - A priest who has worked for schools and churches across the metro New Orleans area returned Monday (June 12) to a St. Tammany Parish courtroom, where a plea deal was offered. Father Patrick Wattigny could face up to 20 years in prison, but would likely get less for pleading guilty.

It has been three years since Wattigny was arrested and charged with molestation of a juvenile, after a teen boy came forward and claimed the longtime Catholic priest had abused him multiple times when he was 15 years old. Talks between the district attorney’s office, the victim’s family and the priest’s attorney have been lengthy.

“Any negotiations can be tough,” Fox 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti said. “You have to give the person what the law says, which is between 5 and 10 years in the criminal code.”

Wattigny was re-arrested last October after a second juvenile surfaced, accusing him of abuse while the student attended Covington Elementary. Wattigny now faces two counts of molestation of a juvenile. A source says Wattigny might be considering a deal that would call for a prison sentence of around five years if he pleads guilty.

Judge John Keller set a hearing for July 12 for Wattigny to reveal whether he will accept the plea offer or proceed to trial. It was unclear whether the terms of the offer would require Wattigny to register as a sex offender.

“It all depends on what the parties want to do, it’s a case-by-case basis,” Raspanti said.

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