Boston Herald

 

Case against ex-priest down to one alleged victim
By Associated Press
Tuesday, January 4, 2005

 

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Prosecutors are dropping more charges against a priest accused in one of the most lurid cases to come out of the clergy sex abuse sandal, leaving only one of four alleged victims to testify at his upcoming trial, a source close to the case told The Associated Press.

 

      The criminal case against defrocked priest Paul Shanley, which once had four young men set to testify that Shanley raped them as children, was long considered a slam-dunk for prosecutors. The men all claimed Shanley molested them repeatedly between 1979 and 1989 when they were altar boys at St. Jean the Evangelist Parish in Newton.

 

      A source familiar with the inner workings of the case who asked not to be identified told the AP that prosecutors were set to drop the charges related to this third victim some time before the trial's Jan. 18 start date.

 

      Earlier this year, prosecutors had dropped charges related to two of the other victims. Now, with only one alleged victim left, some legal observers say the case against the priest who came to symbolize the scandal appears to be substantially weakened.

 

      The men said they did not remember Shanley raping them until years later when they recovered memories of the abuse after seeing news reports about the clergy sex abuse scandal that erupted in the Boston Archdiocese in 2002. Shanley's defense lawyer said he may call Elizabeth Loftus, a renowned psychologist who has challenged claims of repressed memories of sexual abuse, to testify at the trial.

 

      Shanley, now 73, was known in the 1960s and '70s as a “street priest'' who tried to help troubled youth. But internal church records showed that church officials were aware of sexual abuse complaints against Shanley as early as 1967 and knew he advocated sex between men and boys, but continued to transfer him from parish to parish.

 

      Shanley resigned in 1989 and moved to San Diego, where he was arrested in 2002. He was defrocked in February 2004. Shanley has been free on $300,000 bail while he awaits trial. He was originally charged with 10 counts of child rape and six counts of indecent assault and battery. He would now face three counts of child rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery.

 

      Melissa Sherman, a spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley, declined to comment.

 

      “We're not going to comment on anything that hasn't been filed at this point,'' Sherman said.

 

      Shanley's lawyer, Frank Mondano, referred to the case as a “one-complainant case'' during a pretrial hearing last week. He did not elaborate.

 

      “He's maintained his innocence throughout, and this trial is a process through which he hopes to prove his innocence,'' Mondano said Tuesday.

 

      The latest alleged victim to be dropped from the case, who has not been publicly identified, claims Shanley molested him when he was a child. But the man said he did not remember the abuse until about three years ago, when the clergy scandal first erupted in Boston.

 

      During a pretrial hearing in October, the man, now 35, was aggressively questioned by Shanley's lawyer about his admitted history of drug and alcohol abuse, how he came to recall the alleged sexual abuse, and his claims that he was also sexually abused by a baby sitter.

 

      Prosecutor Lynn Rooney said at the time that the man, who is homeless, became ill and vomited after Mondano's cross-examination. She said prosecutors were unable to locate him after that hearing.

 

      In July, prosecutors announced they were dropping the charges against Shanley in two of the cases, including charges related to a man who had been admitted to psychiatric hospitals several times, had made multiple suicide attempts, and had given conflicting statements about when he recovered memories of the alleged abuse.

 

      Prosecutors said they dismissed those charges in an attempt to strengthen their case.

      Shanley's lawyer had accused that alleged victim of fabricating his abuse claims to win damages in his lawsuit.

 

      The further winnowing of the case would leave only one accuser in the criminal case - a man who has accused Shanley of repeatedly molesting him from 1983 to 1989, beginning when he was 6. The man said he began to remember the abuse in February 2002, after he read a newspaper story about Shanley.

 

      He has previously discussed his allegations in the media, and his name has been used in stories since Shanley's arrest. However, Superior Court Judge Charles Spurlock, acting at the request of the district attorney's office, ordered the media Tuesday not to disclose the names of any accusers in the Shanley case. The judge cited a law dating to the 1980s.

 

      The AP plans to challenge the order in court, but is abiding by it in the meantime.

      David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said he is still hopeful that Shanley will be convicted.

 

      “Certainly, given the number of people Shanley has hurt, it would obviously be helpful to have others (in the case), but literally, all it takes is one,'' Clohessy said.

 

      Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented more than 100 clergy abuse victims in lawsuits, said the decision to drop three accusers from Shanley's criminal case is not surprising, given the troubled lives many victims lead.

 

      “The victims may have problems with drugs or alcohol and be portrayed as being unsteady or unstable, yet that instability was substantially caused by the perpetrator's sexual acts,'' Garabedian said.

 

      “It would be a travesty of justice for any perpetrator to be set free because the victim was unable to testify against him as a result of being victimized by him.''