Catholic priest sentenced to 12 years in prison for sexual misconduct

Henry Christopher Foxhoven, a Catholic priest leaves court after pleading guilty to 3 counts of sexual battery. (WCHS/WVAH)

A Catholic priest with the Diocese of Steubenville is headed to prison for 12 years for sexual battery charges involving a teenage member of his parish. The church is in Athens County, Ohio. Henry Christopher Foxhoven pleaded guilty to the charges in Athens County Court Tuesday morning. The sentence was part of a plea deal with prosecutors who believe justice was served in this case.

Prosecutors say Henry Christopher Foxhoven had a sexual relationship with a teenage member of his parish from August to October of this year, adding the incidents took place in the church rectory in Athens County, Ohio.

"I forgive him because that's what God wants me to do. It says in the Bible forgive men and I forgive him as well. I hate seeing him in that orange suit," said the victim's mother in court.

After the victim apologized to Foxhoven in court for getting him into the situation, her mother asked the judge to sentence the priest to counseling instead of jail time. "Don't take him away too long. Don't let prison have him. I know what happens in prison. He's a good man," said the victim's mother.

"Clearly the victim is blaming herself. Others are blaming the victim and getting this case over with quickly I think was very important, but 12 years in prison is a significant message. This behavior is not acceptable," said Athen County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

The 12 years was part of the plea deal. Dino Orsatti, Director of Communications for the Diocese of Steubenville says Foxhoven is still a priest but removed from active ministry. He says the diocese is gathering information to send to the Vatican to possibly remove Foxhoven from the priesthood, and adds the Vatican has been notified of today's court action in Athens County.

"When someone breaches that faith it puts everyone in a bad light," said Blackburn.

Another aspect of the plea deal is Foxhoven promises not to try and get an early release from prison, but when he is released he will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

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A Catholic priest pleaded guilty Tuesday to three sexual battery charges and was sentenced to a dozen years in prison.

Henry Christopher Foxhoven, 45, of Glouster, Ohio, a former Catholic priest in the Diocese of Steubenville, pleaded to the charges and was sentenced in Athens County Court of Common Pleas.

Foxhoven was accused of engaging in sexual conduct with a minor female between Aug. 17 and Oct. 25. The minor is a member of Holy Cross in Glouster, Ohio, one of Foxhoven’s two parishes.

Under a plea deal, he must spend 12 years in prison and can’t seek early release. He also must register as a sex offender once he completes the prison term.

In court on Tuesday, the victim’s mother forgave Foxhoven and said she still considers him a friend. She said she didn’t want to see him sentenced to prison but instead receive counseling, just like her daughter is receiving.

Prosecutors said the relationship between Foxhoven and the minor female had been going on for months. They said the former priest had not only harmed the victim and her family but the Catholic church.

Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said in a previous news release that prior to his arrest on Oct. 30, Foxhoven was suspended from practicing all religious services and was barred from church property by Bishop Monforton of the Diocese of Steubenville.

Dino Orsatti, director of communications for the Diocese of Steubenville, said Tuesday the diocese is gathering information to send to the pope to possibly have Foxhoven removed from the priesthood.

This case was investigated by the Athens County Sheriff’s Office, the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office with assistance from Athens County Children Services and the Glouster Police Department.

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