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Defrocked priest gets one-year suspended sentence

Associated Press

Athens — A defrocked Irish priest with a history of disrupting sports events was given a one-year suspended sentence and fined $3,600 Monday for grabbing a runner who was leading the Olympic marathon with five kilometres to go.

Cornelius Horan was convicted by a misdemeanour court of violating Greece's laws on extracurricular sports for knocking Vanderlei de Lima into the crowd on Sunday. The Brazilian runner continued the race, but he eventually lost his lead and finished third.

Horan, 57, was wearing a green beret, red kilt and knee-high green socks when he pushed de Lima. Horan, who apologized to the court, was told he would have to serve the sentence if he violated any other laws in Greece in the next three years. He was expected to return home to London.

Horan, in a costume similar to Sunday's, ran onto the track at the British Grand Prix last year and stayed there for more than 20 seconds, forcing Formula One racers travelling at more than 200 miles per hour to swerve around him. He was carrying a sign that said: "Read the Bible — the Bible is always right."

De Lima insisted he might have won the gold medal if Horan hadn't grabbed him. Still, the Brazilian said he harboured no resentment toward him.

"But this means he will probably do this again and get killed, as in Formula One, or kill someone," de Lima said.

Roberto Gesta de Melo, head of the Brazilian Athletic Federation, said he had hoped for a stiffer penalty.

"Crazy man has done something like this before. He could do it again," he said.

Horan has been barred from practising as a priest for the past decade. He once published a book called "A glorious new world very soon to come" that predicted the world would soon end.

British authorities said Horan also attempted a protest on Wimbledon's Center Court during a rain break, and tried to disrupt cricket and rugby matches.

On Sunday, Horan jumped from the crowd, ran across the street and grabbed de Lima. A police officer following the leader on a bicycle jumped off and helped free the runner.

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