The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Lawyers, judge discuss another Geoghan case

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 3/9/2002

Yesterday, the day after a judge dismissed two child rape charges against defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, the prosecutor and Geoghan's defense lawyer met with Superior Court Judge Margaret Hinkle to discuss the third, and perhaps final, criminal case against the former priest.

Meanwhile, the mother of the boy allegedly raped by Geoghan criticized the ruling, as child advocates proposed expanding or eliminating the statute of limitations in child molestation cases.

''I ... feel that not only did Geoghan rape him but so did the system,'' the mother said in an e-mail to the Globe. ''There is no justice as far as I am concerned. ... So I guess we just have to go on with life with all these new wounds open and try and heal again.''

She urged parents whose children had been sexually abused to write down dates and details of the crime.

Hinkle on Thursday dismissed the two rape charges against Geoghan, ruling that prosecutors brought them three years after the statute of limitations had expired.

Toni Troop, a spokeswoman for Jane Doe Inc., an advocacy group for battered women, said the dismissal of the charges highlights the need to study the state's statute of limitations law.

''Our fear would be that victims who are not familiar with the intricacies of the law might be deterred from coming forward when they hear that charges against someone who was so visible were thrown out,'' said Troop, who said her organization has been in touch with state legislators about changing the statute of limitations in child sexual assault cases, which now is 15 years.

In Maine, for instance, legislators in 1999 threw out the statute of limitations law on sex abuse cases involving children. The state previously exempted the crimes of rape and incest from a deadline for bringing charges.

Hinkle ruled that prosecutors waited too long to file the two child rape charges against Geoghan in 1999.

Geoghan still faces prosecution on two charges of indecent assault and battery on a Weymouth boy whose mother had met Geoghan through a family friend. The boy told authorities that in 1995 and 1996, when he was between 10 and 12 years old, Geoghan fondled him in the priest's car while driving around downtown Boston.

Geoghan was convicted in January of indecently touching the buttocks of a 10-year-old boy in a Boys and Girls Club swimming pool in Waltham. He was sentenced last month to serve six years of a sentence of nine to 10 years.

At least 130 people have accused Geoghan of molesting them as children during his three decades as a priest in the Boston area. The Boston Archdiocese already has paid $15 million to 100 victims of Geoghan. The tentative settlement of civil lawsuits brought by another 86 people is estimated to cost as much as $30 million.

In the brief hearing yesterday on the remaining criminal case, Suffolk Assistant District Attorney David Deakin said he will ask Hinkle to allow other alleged victims of Geoghan to testify, not just the boy at the heart of the charges.

Such witnesses can be allowed in limited circumstances, such as to establish a pattern of abuse, and judges have discretion in allowing their testimony.

Deakin had made the same request in the case that was dismissed by Hinkle on Thursday. Hinkle had ruled that she would allow some witnesses - those whose abuse allegedly occurred close to the time of the alleged rapes - but not others.

A trial date has not been set in the third criminal case, but it would not be tried until summer at the earliest. Hinkle set a hearing for May 24 for arguments about ''pattern witnesses.''

Prosecutors still haven't announced whether they will appeal Hinkle's order to dismiss the rape charges, saying they are reviewing her decision. But Geoghan's lawyer, Geoffrey Packard, said the decision might be difficult to appeal because Hinkle's ruling was grounded in her view of the evidence in the case, as opposed to general legal issues.

Appellate judges are not usually inclined to second-guess a trial judge's findings on the evidence; reversals are usually based on errors of law.

Kathleen Burge can be reached at

This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 3/9/2002.
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