(Photo: facebook/Miguel Colon)
A 21-year-old alcoholic prison inmate from Lancaster County, Pa., who broke into a Catholic church four times last year and was caught drunk on $5 bottles of sacramental wine was given three years' probation for his crime by a local judge on Monday.
According to a Lancaster Online report, Miguel A. Colon, who was homeless when he broke into the St. Anthony of Padua Church on four separate occasions over a month last summer, will have to find a stable home address as part of a prison-approved plan before he can be paroled.
"He was intoxicated when he went in the church and was even more so when he got out," Colon's defense attorney, James Gratton, reportedly said in court. "This is all about significant alcohol issues."
In an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday, Sharon Ickes, secretary of the church, said Colon who has already served nine months in prison, didn't steal many bottles of wine.
"He only stole like one or two bottles at a time," she said while noting she was surprised he got drunk because the "wine is not that strong."
Judge Howard Knisely, who issued the probation order warned Colon that the leniency he was shown in court could be the last opportunity to turn his life around.
"This may be your last opportunity to get your act together," the judge noted. "All you need is the guts to do it for yourself."
Father Daniel Mitzel of St. Anthony of Padua commented to CP, "We are glad that he got into the system and is getting the help that he needs. We had no idea who was doing it or what type of reasons there might be and so it makes it a little bit more understandable as far as the situation of the alcoholism."
Colon reportedly broke into the church between late July and early September 2012.
"All for the same goal," Gratton said in court. "That is stealing and drinking the sacramental wine."
Police reportedly found Colon "very intoxicated, inside the church on one occasion." He was captured on surveillance cameras in another of the break-ins.
After the second incident, the church which usually stored the wine in their refrigerator were forced to lock up the libation.
Colon, who eventually confessed to the crime, thanked the judge for the probation gesture.
"Whatever I'm sentenced to, I still thank you," he said. "Because I did my crime. There's no turning back. I did what I did."
The church secretary confirmed on Tuesday that they had their electrical experts install surveillance cameras and lighting after the first three break-ins.
They even went as far as posting a sign on one of their windows saying "Perpetrator enter here."
"We didn't want him to break anymore windows but he went to the other side and broke another one," said Ickes.
"It was so disheartening," Mitzel commented. "It was three mornings in such a condensed time period to do a walk around the church hoping that everything's fine. For most of my years it has been; to have that morning after morning and just that vulnerability."
Mitzel said while the windows broken were not elaborate stained glass windows they were historical and have a beauty to them nonetheless.
"It's a little humorous at least for us. Some of the parishioners who come to daily mass were saying to me, 'father just put a bottle of the church wine outside the door, you know. Save the windows for us.' And there seemed to be some rationality to that but when we found out who it was and he was only 20, I could have been charged myself in some ways making wine available to somebody under 21."
The break-ins cost the church more than $1,000 in damage due mainly to the broken windows and Colon was ordered to pay for the damage he caused.
The remorseful man reportedly told the judge, "I want to change my life," before he was removed from the courtroom by deputy sheriffs.