Clearwater Police Radar

By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
Published January 12, 2007

The former facilities manager of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church was sentenced to house arrest Thursday for offering a boy at the Dunedin church $100 for a sex act.

William Forte, 61, pleaded no contest to a charge of lewd and lascivious conduct. Pinellas Circuit Judge Joseph Bulone sentenced Forte to two years’ house arrest, which will be followed by three years’ probation. Bulone also designated Forte a sexual offender and ordered him to have no contact with children.

Prosecutors and the boy’s mother had asked for prison time. The maximum Forte could have received was 15 years in prison. Forte also had been accused of sexually abusing children in 1992, though those charges were reduced to misdemeanors.

Forte’s lawyer, Roger Futerman, said Forte disputed the latest accusation, but wanted to put the case behind him.

“He just wants to be left alone,” Futerman said. Forte now works as a chef and lives in a condo for people 55 and older, he said. The pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church hired Forte in 2003 despite a 1992 arrest in Polk County in which Forte was accused of showing six children pornography, giving them alcohol and paying them for sex.

Forte ultimately pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and received six months’ probation.

The pastor of the church knew of Forte’s previous arrest when he hired him in 2003, but believed Forte’s contentions that the sexual connotations of the allegations were blown out of proportion.

Forte worked as facilities manager at the church and oversaw the community service program. In 2004, he was supervising a boy cleaning a bathroom when he offered the teen $100 to perform a sex act.

The boy said no and months later told his mother, who called authorities.

Forte was arrested in September 2005.

The church’s pastor, Father Tom Madden, admitted to making a mistake in hiring Forte and apologized to parishioners. At the time, he said parents and parish members would have a hand in reviewing the backgrounds of people hired at the church.

[Last modified January 11, 2007, 22:22:55]