Priest Punished

Priest Punished It was judgment day for a former Catholic priest who admitted to molesting a 10-year-old boy nearly a decade ago.

Under a plea deal, James Hopkins was sentenced Friday to eight years in a special treatment center for sex offenders.

Hopkins, 61, will serve his time at the adult diagnostic treatment center in Avenel, N.J.

"I don't know if any amount of time can take away from the amount of pain already caused," said Catherine Norton, James Norton's mother.

Hopkins admitted to fondling the victim -- now 20 years old -- at the boy's home in Pennsauken in the summer of 1995. Jonathan Norton was an altar boy at St. Peter's Church in Merchantville at the time.

Hopkins was not only the victim's priest, but also a trusted family friend and confidante.

"My son was extremely brave putting his pain out there. He's effected change and kept children safe from one more predator for a while," Catherine Norton said.

Hopkins was removed from the priesthood in 1995 after allegations he abused another boy. In 2003, he was extradited from Florida to face the abuse charges filed by Norton.

In court Friday, Hopkins apologized to the victim's family. He admitted that he is attracted to young boys and needs help.

Norton's mother said it is difficult, but she has forgiven the priest and hopes he gets the help he desperately needs.

"I knew him as a friend first, and I have to forgive him. If I don't, I can't dissolve the turmoil inside my own heart," Catherine Norton said.

Under Megan's Law, upon his release, Hopkins must register as a sex offender every 90 days. He is also subject to community supervision for the rest of his life.

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