Former priest in Massachusetts found guilty of abuse; convicted of fondling boy in 1991
Friday, January 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ A defrocked priest was convicted Friday of indecent assault and battery for improperly touching a 10-year-old boy at a swimming pool a decade ago.
John Geoghan, 66, still faces two other criminal cases and 84 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual abuse of children. He was still a priest at the time of the 1991 episode.
As he had through much of the trial, Geoghan showed no emotion as the verdict was read. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
``He was clearly stunned,'' said defense attorney Geoffrey Packard. He said he planned to appeal the conviction.
Since 1995, more than 130 people have claimed Geoghan fondled or raped them during the three decades he served in Boston-area parishes.
A jury of eight men and four women deliberated about eight hours over two days before reaching a verdict.
Geoghan, of Scituate, did not testify and did not have anyone testify for the defense. His lawyer told the jury that Geoghan had only touched the boy when he helped hoist him out of the pool.
His bail was revoked after his conviction and he was taken into custody. A hearing to decide on a sentencing date is scheduled for next Wednesday.
Earlier Friday, jurors asked the judge to what extent they should consider the boy's mother's testimony. Judge Sandra Hamlin replied that her testimony could be used only to corroborate her son's testimony, not to fill in gaps in the story.
In closing arguments Thursday, prosecutor Lynn Rooney said Geoghan betrayed the boy's trust when he allegedly grabbed his buttocks in the swimming pool at the Waltham Boys and Girls Club.
``I felt a hand go up the back of my leg. ...,'' the young man testified Wednesday. ``It was kind of like bells went off. I got really nervous.''
``I got away as fast as possible,'' he said.
Packard, however, implied the abuse charge was all about money, noting the alleged victim didn't come forward until eight years after the incident, and only after consulting an attorney, who later filed a civil suit. He also said too many other people were present for the incident to go unnoticed.
Rooney said that if the victim was after money, he would have come up with a more dramatic story.
Among the witnesses at the five-day trial was the Archbishop of New Orleans, the Rev. Alfred Hughes, who was Geoghan's supervisor in Boston in 1991. Hughes said he met with Geoghan after a woman complained Geoghan made ``inappropriate'' comments at the club pool.
He said he told Geoghan to stay away from the Waltham club, and Geoghan agreed. It was not clear from testimony if the warning came after the incident with the young man in this case. The victim could not remember the exact day Geoghan touched him.
Dr. Edward Messner, a psychiatrist, testified he discussed Geoghan's thoughts and fantasies about boys during a 1995 counseling session. He said they worked through methods to combat the thoughts.
The two remaining cases charge Geoghan with two counts each of child rape and child molestation. The first is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 20.
Last week, Cardinal Bernard Law publicly apologized to Geoghan's victims and ordered clergy and volunteers to report allegations of abuse against minors. The Archdiocese of Boston will have ``zero tolerance'' for sexual abuse by priests, he said.
Law's apology came just days after The Boston Globe reported that Law, during his first year in Boston in 1984, assigned Geoghan to St. Julia's Parish in Weston, even though Geoghan had been removed from two prior parishes for allegedly molesting children.
Law and five other bishops who supervised Geoghan have been accused of negligence in many of the civil suits for allegedly knowing of abuse and doing nothing to stop it.