15-year term for Argentine priest sex abuse upheld

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - Argentina's Supreme Court has upheld the 15-year prison sentence of a priest convicted of sexually abusing a boy in his "Happy Children" foundation, prompting the victim's attorney on Thursday to call for the cleric's immediate arrest.

The Rev. Julio Cesar Grassi maintained his innocence during the appeal, continuing to live in a home across the street from the foundation despite the conviction and additional allegations he abused more than a dozen children there. The court found him guilty of abusing one boy, with the rest of the charges dismissed for lack of evidence.

That victim's attorney, Juan Pablo Gallego, said Grassi should be arrested lest he try to escape now that his pedophilia conviction has been confirmed.

The Supreme Court of Justice in Buenos Aires province late Wednesday upheld Grassi's conviction for two cases of aggravated sexual abuse and a third of corruption committed against Gallego's client, who was a teenager in 1996.

Gallego told the cable network Todo Noticias that Grassi is "a dangerous pedophile" who could try to escape. The priest's attorneys have made no comment on their client's current situation.

Over the past year, the priest was held under house arrest, and then was freed under certain conditions as his sentence was delayed pending the appeal's outcome.

Grassi was well known for his work as president of the Happy Children foundation, which operated several children's homes.

Through television appearances and other campaigns, Grassi raised millions of dollars for the foundation, many of the donations coming from prominent figures who distanced themselves from the priest after the allegations surfaced.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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