The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Friday, February 25, 2011

Armstrong: The End of the Affair

According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Father Donald Armstrong has been sentenced in accordance with his plea bargain:
A judge Friday sentenced the Rev. Donald Armstrong to four years probation for his no-contest plea to one count of misdemeanor theft of funds from the Colorado Springs church where he once served as rector.

Fourth Judicial District Judge Gregory R. Werner also ordered Armstrong to pay restitution in the amount of $99,247 that was diverted to pay for his son's and daughter’s college education. The money came from a trust fund originally set up to pay for the education of seminary students.

But Werner rejected a request by a special prosecutor to order Armstrong to repay Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church an additional $191,753 in church funds that also were spent on his children’s education.

Werner cited testimony by three former church officials who testified they knew of a deal where the church paid the tuition in lieu of giving Armstrong a raise for several years.

The judge also ordered Armstrong to perform 400 hours of community service not related to his current church and forbade him from managing the funds of any trust, business or legal entity.
Well, that testimony was a variable I hadn't foreseen. The testimony itself depicts a situation which strikes me as irregular at best--that the two wardens and another church official knew about Armstrong receiving college payments instead of raises, but that the vestry did not--and, in view of their joining the breakaway church led by Armstrong, St. George's, my cynic-o-meter is bleeping. Still, I stand by my original analysis: dislike Father Armstrong's churchmanship though I do, this was an appropriate resolution, properly geared toward not inflicting more harm than necessary. I note that, as I suspected, the prosecutors were not amused by Armstrong's attitude in the wake of the plea's negotiation (from the first linked story):
Prosecutors had asked the judge to consider jail time for Armstrong, without saying how much.

“I’m sure if church members had their way they would lock him up and send him to Elba,” said Pueblo County Deputy District Attorney Stephen Jones, alluding to the island near Italy where Napoleon was exiled.

Jones served as special prosecutor in the case because former El Paso County District Attorney John Newsome had been a member of the vestry, or governing body, at Grace Church.

Jones also asked the judge to order Armstrong to write a public apology to his former congregation, noting remarks Armstrong made after entering the no-contest plea in which he continued to maintain his innocence.

“It seems like there’s been no acceptance on the part of Mr. Armstrong to the reality of what he did,” Jones said.
The judge acted within his discretion in declining to order an apology, noting that the gap between the two congregations was "a huge divide." My only qualm about this resolution is the thought that Fr. Armstrong may in fact think he "got over." But the fact is, he didn't. Probation, being barred from fiduciary positions, and the public embarrassment--these all exact a cost, to say nothing of the months of anxiety he and his family must have suffered. Moreover, even after he completes his probation, he will still have a theft conviction on his record.

Fr. Armstrong is not in TEC anymore. So I don't feel an further comment from me is warranted, other than that I hope he will view this result as a what in fact is--a second chance and that his future ministry will be worthy of it.

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