A once highly regarded Bridgeport priest who became an addict and large-quantity distributor of the addictive drug methamphetamine was sentenced to 65 months in prison Thursday during a legal hearing heavy with discussion of atonement and crowded with 75 or more of his supporters.
Kevin Wallin, the suspended Bridgeport monsignor, who during 30 years as a priest served as secretary to two bishops, said his arrest two years ago saved him from almost certain death by drug abuse. In long, emotional remarks to Senior U.S. District Judge Alfred V. Covello, Wallin said his ambition now is to repay family, parishioners and the church for the support he says saved him and to re-establish himself as a productive clergyman.
“God was watching over me the day I was arrested,” Wallin, 63, said. “The ability to get out of that, I owe to the people in this room, to the people who have written to me, to others. The drugs, the shame that I experienced, the remorse, the embarrassment — that would have killed me. They saved me. They did this to me after what I did to them.”
Covello said he had not seen what he called such abundant and eloquent support for a criminal defendant in 22 years on the bench. But he said the law required that Wallin spend more time in prison, in addition to the 28 months he has served since his arrest.
“Our humanity is our greatest strength and also our greatest weakness,” Covello said. “We paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and then we become involved in mind-altering chemicals. The court and the law cannot ignore your decision to infect your community with methamphetamine, a horrific drug.”
The arrest and discovery of Wallin’s secret, squalid life as a drug dealer, rocked the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, where he was an indispensable figure and a potential bishop himself. Those who spoke on his behalf Thursday — his public defender, five of his supporters and Wallin himself — still were trying to explain the collapse.
“When a person totally gives his life to others, he puts himself in a vulnerable position,” public defender Kelly M. Barrett said.
The trigger that might have unsettled Wallin, Barrett said, was the collapse of the financial markets in 2008, which crippled Wallin’s fundraising efforts on behalf of the diocese. Wallin turned to methamphetamine as an escape, she said, became addicted and began selling drugs to subsidize his habit. She said he was so shamed by his behavior that he was unable to ask for help.
“How could an individual of this caliber fall to what he became?” asked Dr. Richard Malone, a friend and psychiatrist who specializes in treating addictions among priests. “The answer to this is: ‘This is the nature of addiction.'”
Prior to his arrest in January 2013, colleagues said Wallin had begun behaving oddly. He took a leave of absence from the diocese. He moved into an apartment in Waterbury. Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Caruso said the apartment became Wallin’s drug “stash house,” the place he stored drugs and cash and a place where other addicts arrived at all hours to buy and use drugs.
Investigations by the State Police and others showed that Wallin bought large quantities of methamphetamine from two California dealers and distributed the drug to wholesale and retail customers. The California distributors previously had been given sentences of 60 and 65 months.
The investigators said there is evidence that Wallin might have been planning to launder thousands of dollars a week in drug money through an X-rated sexual novelty store he was buying with drug profits. Before his arrest, Wallin had sought municipal approval to open the store in North Haven on behalf of a limited liability corporation known as Rahab and Endor.
According to the Bible, Rahab was a prostitute whose life God spared when Joshua and the Israelites destroyed Jericho. The Bible says the Witch of Endor was a seer who foresaw the death of King Saul.
There were more Biblical references in court Thursday, one in particular that Barrett said might show there is hope for Wallin. She compared his quest for atonement to that of the Apostle Peter. After denying Jesus three times before the crucifixion, Peter repented, was forgiven and became the first pope of the Catholic Church, Barrett said.
Even the prosecutor, Caruso, found kind things to say about Wallin.
“I have interviewed Mr. Wallin twice,” Caruso said. “He is contrite and genuinely remorseful about what he did. He also is an educated, intelligent and articulate man. He has talked about atonement in a sophisticated way. He has been a priest for 20 years. He is unlikely to re-offend.”
But, Caruso said, when Wallin “crossed over,” he devoted all his considerable skill to drug dealing. And, Caruso said, not one of the 90 or so letters to the court from Wallin’s supporters “sheds a single tear” for the addicts who bought drugs.
“There is no dispute about Mr. Wallin’s role,” Caruso said. “He was the leader, the leader of the business. He reached out to these people and handed them a $50 bag of meth. He trapped these most vulnerable people in their addiction. This wasn’t about behavior that went on for 30 days. It went on for years.”
Wallin said he admits everything of which he is accused and is solely responsible for his behavior.
“The day that I was arrested was a very good day,” he said. “It took me out of that situation. It was out of control.”
He said he confessed immediately.
“I surprised myself at how much I was at peace that day,” he said. “To say that I am sorry, to say that I apologize in no way adequately conveys the regret and sorrow that I feel. I allowed myself to be separated from my family. I blame myself. I did it to myself.”
Prior to his arrest, Wallin served in a number of positions in the Bridgeport Diocese, including as personal secretary to bishops Walter Curtis and Edward Egan, later appointed a cardinal. At various times he was assigned to churches in Danbury and Bridgeport. Wallin’s last position was that of monsignor of the church’s principal parish in Bridgeport, St. Augustine’s. He was sentenced on a charge of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.