A South Florida priest accused of molesting several boys entered a no contest plea to six counts of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child in a Broward court Monday.
Neil Doherty, 69, had been charged with eight counts including sexual battery, lewd or lascivious molestation and committing a lewd act in the presence of a child.
The retired priest appeared frail and haggard in Broward Circuit Court. His no contest plea means that he will get a maximum 15-year prison sentence, authorities said.
Doherty, a former priest at St. Vincent's Catholic Church in Margate, has been accused in several alleged incidents dating back to the early 1970s. Some of the accusations were too old to prosecute.
Doherty is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 28. It will be his first criminal punishment.
Attorney Jeff Herman said the plea deal offers some closure for the victim, now 26, who alleged that Doherty drugged and raped him multiple times as a young boy.
"This isn't about a victory in terms of being able to take away what happened to these men," Herman said after the hearing. "It's about justice, it's about finally having validation and vindication, because all these years Doherty has been denying it, the church has been denying it, and we knew better."
Herman, who represents several of Doherty's alleged victims, has filed more than 20 civil suits on their behalf.
"Hopefully this is the end of the reign of terror for Father Doherty, who preyed on young boys in Florida for decades," Herman said.
A jury awarded a $100 million verdict against Doherty in a sex abuse case in 2011.
He retired from the Archdiocese of Miami in 2004.