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In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo, Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia. An Australian court spokesman says Pell will not fight for a reduced jail sentence if he fails in his appeal of his conviction for molesting two choirboys in the 1990s. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File)In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo, Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia. An Australian court spokesman says Pell will not fight for a reduced jail sentence if he fails in his appeal of his conviction for molesting two choirboys in the 1990s. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File)

SYDNEY (AP) — Disgraced Australian Catholic cardinal George Pell will not fight for a reduced jail sentence if he fails in his appeal of his conviction for molesting two choirboys in the 1990s, a court spokesman said Monday.

The 77-year-old Pell — the most senior Catholic convicted of sex abuse — was sentenced in a Melbourne court in March to six years in prison. He must serve at least three years and eight months of the term.

Pell will appeal his conviction next month. His lawyers have filed an application arguing it should be overturned on three grounds.

But the application does not include an appeal of the length of the sentence, Andre Awadalla, a spokesman for the Court of Appeal in Victoria state, told the Associated Press.

"The only appeal application filed on the matter is an appeal against conviction," Awadalla said. "His lawyers haven't filed an appeal in relation to sentence."

In sentencing Pell in March, Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd acknowledged that there was a real chance that Pope Francis' former finance minister could die in jail.

Pell was convicted by a unanimous jury verdict in December on one charge of sexual penetration of a child and four charges of committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child.

He was found guilty of raping a 13-year-old choirboy and sexually molesting his 13-year-old friend in the sacristy of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996, months after he became archbishop of the city. He molested the first boy again about a month later. One of his victims later died of a heroin overdose at the age of 31.

Pell's appeal application is set down for hearing on June 5 and 6, with three judges to first decide whether he should be granted leave to appeal.

His legal team will first argue that the verdicts were "unreasonable" since the jury could not have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Pell was guilty based on the word of the surviving victim against "unchallenged exculpatory evidence" of more than 20 prosecution witnesses.

Pell's lawyers are also expected to argue that Judge Kidd erred in not allowing them to use a video graphic in their closing arguments, which they said would demonstrate the offending that was alleged would have been impossible.

The third ground details an alleged "fundamental irregularity" in the trial in that Pell was not arraigned — asked if he pleaded guilty or not guilty — in front of the chosen jury.

If the judges accept the first ground, Pell's conviction will be overturned and he will be released.

A new trial could be ordered if they accept the second or third grounds.

While Pell remains Australia's highest-ranking Catholic, the Vatican has launched its own investigation into his convictions.

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sheila gray
5 years ago

This case troubles me in many ways, and I’m not sure why. It doesn’t surprise me that Pell’s attorneys had laudable Exculpatory Evidence in abundance. But the very nature of the Abuse Crisis is that Secrets we’re kept from many, if not most, if not all. Clergy members and parishioners and victims’ families around the world have been saying for years in response to multiple allegations surfacing about their friends/colleagues that they had “no idea”, or “But he or she was a wonderful person”, and “I never heard about any of this”. It’s just difficult to believe that a man can reach the heights of leadership in the Catholic Church without a lot of people knowing whether or not he was engaging in improper relations with children and teens. We may never know the truth. But it has all gone on for so long, everywhere, that it’s now in the hands of civil Court systems. Ultimately, The Church brought this all on itself, by embracing Deception and Silence for decades as the first and last response to tens of thousands of allegations pouring in from all over the world. Oh, how I wish with all my heart and soul they had done it differently...!!!

Warren Patton
5 years ago

I don't know what exculpatory evidence they presented to try to exonerate Pell. The stuff you mention- character witnesses claiming "he would never do that" or that he's a great person- would not be termed exonerating evidence. It probably wouldn't be evidence at all.

Javier von Sydow
5 years ago

The author should do well -and America should check on this- in publishing information in the conditional form, every time the conviction is not final and under appeal. This is something clearly stated in the new directives against abuse within the Church, that basic principles of the law must be maintained.

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