Convicted priest says he’s too sick to complete sentence

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CLEVELAND-- He wants out of jail. But Reverend Andre Matthew's request was denied by a Cuyahoga County court judge...at least for 30 days.

The 54-year old priest admitted to stealing more than 175-thousand dollars from St. Helena Catholic Church on West 65th Street in Cleveland and was sentenced to two years in prison last year.

But now, just 9-months into that two-year sentence, Rev. Matthews says he's too sick to serve out the rest of his sentence.

His defense attorney Gerald Gold says, "He's lost 100-pounds, he cannot see, cannot read, he's generally really decaying."

But Assistant County prosecutor James Gutierrez says the mercy of the court should always be directed towards the victims and not the defendant.

"This church is teetering on bankruptcy. Teetering. I believe they told be they have 300-dollars in the bank account. It's the oldest Romanian church in the United States, and it's gonna fold because of this man," said Gutierrez.

While Matthews was ordered to pay the money back during sentencing, prosecutors say the former priest hasn't paid a dime and should not be released from jail until the money is returned, not only to the church, but also to a wheelchair bound 89-year old parishioner who was also a victim to the tune of 100-thousand dollars.

"It sounds crass to say well we want some money, but we do want some money back. She lost 106-thousand dollars out of her life savings," said one parishioner.

Church members packed the courtroom for the judicial release hearing, all wanting to see justice served.

Prosecutors say the money was stolen was raised during bingo nights, and that Matthews used the money on his mortgage, credit cards and his children's college tuition.

It was also revealed in court that the Father recently sold a house that he owned outside of Ohio.

The judge says Matthews will have thirty-days to pay some sort of restitution to the victims. And only then will he consider an early release.