An Irish priest has admitted to attempted drug dealing in the US after being caught with crystal meth in a car park on St Patrick’s Day.
Fr Michael O’Leary was arrested in New York last year with a half ounce of the drug along with weighing scales, two glass pipes and several zip-locked bags.
At the time the Dublin-born priest was at the centre of a will dispute before the High Court with his siblings which was adjourned because of his arrest.
The Herald has learned that Fr O’Leary (52) is now awaiting sentencing in New York after admitting to attempted drug dealing.
Court records state that he has pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, methamphetamine, with the intent to sell it.
The offence is classified as a C Felony under New York State Law, which can carry a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment.
In less serious cases it can also result in probation with no jail time at all, or between one and two years imprisonment.
Methamphetamine is a powerful synthetic stimulant more commonly known as crystal meth.
It is highly addictive and is on par with crack cocaine in terms of harmful affects.
The priest has also admitted to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree.
This offence is a less serious crime and is categorised as a misdemeanor.
Fr O’Leary’s case remains before Westchester County Criminal Court and he is currently out on bail with the matter due to be heard again in the new year.
A court clerk said the case is currently listed for ‘compliance’ for a judge to ensure that he is abiding by conditions set out by the court.
The priest’s US lawyer, assigned through a legal aid scheme, did not respond to requests for comment.
According to the initial arrest record, Fr O’Leary was the driver of a 2018 Toyota vehicle that was searched by police officers in the early hours of March 17, 2019.
Inside, officers discovered a number of zip-locked bags, 16 grams of methamphetamine, and two glass pipes.
One of the pipes had residue of the drug on it, while digital weighing scales were also recovered in the glove box of the vehicle.
His co-accused Alberto Calderon (29), from Brooklyn, faced three charges including the sale of drugs and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.
During his initial court appearances in 2019, Fr O’Leary was criticised by the presiding judge for only completing 80 days of a 90-day drug rehabilitation programme.
The Archdiocese of New York last year confirmed that Fr O’Leary was suspended but did not respond to requests for comment this week.
In a previous statement, it said: “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 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”.
The priest’s arrest first came to light in June 2019 when it emerged that a will dispute before the High Court between him and his three siblings was delayed because of his detention.