Connecticut priest who ran meth operation asks judge for leniency, cites charitable service

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HARTFORD, Connecticut — A suspended Roman Catholic priest who authorities say dealt pounds of methamphetamine and bought a sex shop to possibly launder his drug money is asking a federal judge for leniency when he is sentenced next week.

Monsignor Kevin Wallin's public defender filed a sentencing request in federal court in Hartford on Monday citing Wallin's three decades of charitable service as well as more than 80 letters of support, including one from the late New York Cardinal Edward Egan.

Wallin, 63, dubbed "Monsignor Meth" in some media reports, pleaded guilty in 2013 to a methamphetamine conspiracy charge and agreed to a potential prison sentence of 10 to 11 years. Already imprisoned for the past two years, he is now asking for a sentence of no more than four years in prison followed by a year of home confinement, 500 hours of community service and drug treatment. Sentencing is scheduled for March 24.

"The record evidence demonstrates that Kevin Wallin is an extraordinary man whose remarkable character and acts have touched thousands of people," Wallin's public defender, Kelly Barrett, wrote in the sentencing request. "Kevin tragically became a methamphetamine addict. He fell from grace and did criminal wrong, but has confessed his crimes and has been working hard to atone for them."

Barrett wrote that Wallin's numerous accomplishments include serving as pastor of St. Peter's Parish in Danbury and the Cathedral Parish in Bridgeport, volunteering with a variety of community groups, helping found an AIDS ministry program, leading an inner city charity group, serving on the Danbury Cultural Commission and serving on the board of directors of Sacred Heart University.

Egan, who died earlier this month, was bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport from 1988 to 2000. He praised Wallin in a letter to the court.

"He was outstanding in the fulfillment of his assignments and in his concern for people in need," Egan wrote. "Father Wallin was held in highest regard as a dedicated clergyman and an outstanding citizen as well."

Federal prosecutors say Wallin committed serious crimes and most people convicted of conspiring to sell meth are sentenced to at least 10 years in prison.

Federal investigators said Wallin had associates in California send him methamphetamine beginning in late 2008 or early 2009. By 2011, Wallin's partners were sending him one to three pounds of meth a month and Wallin was running the drug operation out of his apartment in Waterbury, investigators said.

Wallin also bought the "Land of Oz & Dorothy's Place" adult video and sex toy shop in North Haven and apparently intended to launder drug proceeds that totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, federal agents said in court documents.

Wallin's two accomplices in California — Chad McCluskey of San Clemente and Kristen Laschober of Laguna Niguel — were both sentenced last year to five years in prison. Two men who helped Wallin sell drugs in Connecticut also were convicted. Kenneth Devries of Waterbury was sentenced to more than two years in prison and Michael Nelson of Manchester awaits sentencing.

Brian Wallace, a spokesman for the Diocese of Bridgeport, said Wallin is still a priest, but remains suspended from public ministry.

"We're asking for prayers for him, understanding and recognizing that many people ... suffer from addiction and they lose control of their lives," Wallace said. "It's time for him to try to rebuild his life."

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