| Crime |

Daniel Drinan, busted for pleasuring himself on plane, a disgraced ex-priest

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Former Catholic priest Daniel Drinan made headlines after being charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver for masturbating in view of other passengers on a plane -- and they weren't his first.

Even before this latest incident, Drinan, 63, had an entry on BishopAccountability.org, which describes itself as a "database of publicly accused priests in the United States." Why?

Here's the site's Drinan narrative, sans additional information about the aircraft arrest:

Removed 5/02 after complaint of inappropriate behavior with a minor. Charged with misdemeanor assault not involving sexual contact or injuries to a child. Paid a fine but no jail time. Bishop refused to return him to ministry because of incident & because of other issues from the past discovered during investigation. Working in Reno NV in 2005 at treatment facility for paroled prisoners with addiction problems.

Accompanying this passage are links to articles from the Austin American-Statesman. An April 2002 report notes that Drinan, described as a "member of the Eastern Province of the Claretians" affiliated with Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Austin, had been accused of inappropriate conduct with a minor -- news that left many members of his parish in tears. A July 2002 followup notes that the charges against Drinan had been changed to misdemeanor assault -- an accusation that, as pointed out above, didn't include a sexual component or claims of injury to the child in question. Nonetheless, he left the parish.

By 2005, as documented by this Reno Gazette-Journal article, Drinan was working in a halfway house catering to recovering addicts and alcoholics in northern Nevada. He's identified as a Catholic priest, and there's no mention of his previous brush with the law.

He'd have another one, though, thanks to his alleged behavior on a Southwest Airlines flight from Baltimore to Denver this past Saturday. According to an affidavit referenced by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Drinan took advantage of the WiFi service available on the plane by plugging in his laptop and accessing pornography. A witness told authorities that he then began to touch himself -- and when he didn't stop, she alerted a female flight attendant. The latter woman passed this message to one of her male colleagues, who reportedly told Drinan to "put his pants back together."

This odd phrasing is understandable, given that Drinan's genitalia is said to have been "totally exposed," despite his efforts to hide his junk with his laptop.

If convicted of lewd, indecent or obscene acts in public aboard an aircraft, Drinan could face not more than ninety days in jail and as much as a $250,000 fine -- not to mention yet another update on BishopAccountability.org.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Marcus Covington allegedly gropes pregnant woman before JetBlue flight diverted."

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