JEFFERSON -- On February 22, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Jacqueline Erwin sentenced Fr. Thomas Marr, 66, former pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Watertown, to nine months in a county jail as a condition of a seven-year probationary period. The sentencing followed a no-contest plea and guilty verdict.
After three months in jail, Father Marr can apply for an alternative, such as electronic monitoring. Father Marr was also asked to pay restitution of $134,318 to 17 households.
Father Marr was accused of soliciting money from parishioners and friends and giving it to Arthur Eith, who claimed to be awaiting a payout on a Nigerian business venture. Eith had allegedly promised the priest he would make a $1 million donation to St. Bernard Parish.
Eith is still under investigation by the state Department of Justice and has declined comment.
Father Marr has been living as a "priest in residence" at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison, assisting with sacramental needs only, at the request and supervision of Msgr. Ken Fiedler, pastor. This arrangement presently remains unchanged.
Bill Ginsberg of Madison, Father Marr's attorney, said he has asked permission for Father Marr to serve his sentence in the Dane County Jail in Madison. The other alternative is to serve his sentence in the Jefferson County Jail in Jefferson.
Wherever he serves his sentence, Ginsberg said Father Marr will be able to continue to work on Huber release. The priest will start serving his sentence on March 14.
At the sentencing in the courthouse in Jefferson, Father Marr read a brief statement asking forgiveness from those he has hurt. "I have no excuses for my bad judgment," he said.
Fatther Marr was placed on administrative leave by the Diocese of Madison as of July 16, 2009. For nearly two years, St. Bernard Parish and the Diocese of Madison have been cooperating fully with civil authorities, as has Father Marr.
In a statement, the Diocese of Madison said, "Bishop Robert Morlino continues to offer Father Marr his prayerful support and love as a brother priest and friend. He commends his continued cooperation with civil authorities, so that the truth may be served and that appropriate responsibility be taken."
The diocese continues to be in contact with Msgr. Daniel Ganshert, the current pastor of St. Bernard Parish, and parish representatives. The pastoral care of the parish remains a priority of the bishop and his offices.