updated 10/24/2008 3:39:33 PM ET 2008-10-24T19:39:33

A prominent former Roman Catholic priest was convicted Friday of taking a boy on religious retreats to have sex with him.

Donald McGuire, 78, was convicted after jurors deliberated less than three hours Thursday and Friday in the 2 1/2-week trial. The federal charge involved taking a minor across state lines for sex.

The white-haired former priest sat stoically in his wheelchair as U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer read the verdict that could result in a 30-year sentence.

McGuire said in a written statement afterward that he was "very disappointed in the verdict — I was hoping for a better outcome and exoneration."

"I continue to pray for the spiritual well being of all involved in the case and put myself in the hands of the Lord — he is my salvation and hope," McGuire said in a statement dictated to defense attorney Stephen Komie in the lockup after court.

Key testimony was provided by a boy known in court only as Dominick, who said McGuire had repeatedly molested him. But several other boys took the stand and said McGuire had engaged in sexual conduct with them as well.

Komie told jurors in his closing argument that Dominick and the other boys were lying because they wanted to collect civil damages from the church. After the verdict, prosecutors were sharply critical of that claim.

"The attempt to smear him (Dominick) and challenge his truthfulness was itself outrageous — it was shameful," Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie B. Ruder told reporters.

Ruder said that the greatest challenge of the case was to "help these victims present what had happened to them in a way that they felt comfortable with." She called them the "heroes of this case."

Prosecutors said that McGuire had been molesting boys for many years.

Pallmeyer set sentencing for Dec. 18.

In 2006, McGuire was convicted in Wisconsin for child molestation and sentenced to seven years in prison. He has appealed that conviction. He was also been indicted in Arizona for child molestation and faces lawsuits in a series of new child molestation accusations.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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