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Priest Bagged for Growing Pot in Rectory

The Associated Press, USA
Feb. 6, 2004 • Saturday February 7, 2004

Ohio Catholic Priest Faces Charges for Growing 35 Pot Plants in Prince of Peace Rectory

AKRON, Ohio Feb. 6 A Roman Catholic priest accused of growing marijuana in his church living quarters pleaded innocent Friday.

The Rev. Richard A. Arko, 40, said nothing in Summit County Magistrate Court. He is free on a $3,000 signature bond.

He was charged Jan. 22 with illegal cultivation of marijuana, a fifth-degree felony. On Wednesday, an indictment also charged him with possession of criminal tools and illegal use or possession of drug paraphernalia.

If convicted, Arko faces one to two years in jail and up to $5,250 in fines.

Police seized 35 pots of marijuana plants, rolling papers, a rolling machine, grinder and scissors from the Prince of Peace Church rectory, prosecutors say.

After the arrest, church officials put the priest on paid leave and said Arko won’t be allowed to return to his duties in the parish after the case is resolved.

Norton police arrested Arko after they searched the living quarters in Barberton, about eight miles southwest of Akron.

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