Tuesday 16 July 2019

Drugs case against Irish priest in New York to be heard in closed court

Fr Michael O’Leary
Fr Michael O’Leary

Orla O'Sullivan in New York

An Irish priest is to have drugs charges against him heard behind closed doors in New York.

Dublin-born Fr Michael O'Leary faces four drugs charges after being arrested on St Patrick's Day allegedly with a half-ounce of methamphetamine, scales and packaging materials in Peekskill, New York, an hour north of midtown Manhattan.

The charges he is facing include criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell.

At a hearing in New York last night, the Bronx-based priest was criticised by the court for completing just 80 days of a 90-day drug rehabilitation programme he had agreed to.

Nonetheless, Peekskill City Court Judge Reginald J Johnson agreed to let Fr O'Leary's case be heard behind closed doors.

The case will be heard in Westchester County Court in New York, but probably not before September.

Fr O'Leary yesterday spoke only to give his name. He introduced himself simply as "Michael O'Leary", although his Linkedin profile describes him as a priest practising in New York for 21 years.

He wore a suit and open-necked shirt.

The Archdiocese of New York confirmed in a statement to the Irish Independent yesterday: "O'Leary is still a priest, but he has not had an assignment for several years and is currently suspended."

In a Decree of Suspension issued two days after his St Patrick's Day arrest, the Archdiocese recommended that he be dismissed.

It cited "Fr O'Leary's persistent disobedience, his manifest lack of suitability for ministry and his arrest for possession of illegal drugs…"

Fr O'Leary was previously charged in 2017 with drunk driving in the town of Woodbury, New York.

In Ireland, he is involved in a High Court case over the will made by his late mother, Elizabeth O'Leary of Morehampton Road, Donnybrook, Dublin, who died in September 2014.

Four of his siblings - Nora Harpur, Barry O'Leary, Tadgh O'Leary and Marie O'Leary - are seeking an order setting aside the will made in 2009, five years before Ms O'Leary's death.

They say in part that she was not of sound mind when it was executed and that Fr O'Leary and his brother, John, exerted undue influence on her.

The claims are denied.

The High Court in Dublin agreed on June 25 to adjourn that hearing until Fr O' Leary could come to Ireland to give evidence.

Irish Independent

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