The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


'Keep the kids safe,' Druce shouts in court

Pleads not guilty in Geoghan killing

By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 9/20/2003

WORCESTER -- As he was escorted from court yesterday after pleading not guilty to charges that he murdered defrocked priest John J. Geoghan, Joseph L. Druce prompted raucous cheers from other prisoners when he shouted: "Let's keep the kids safe. Hold pedophiles accountable for their actions."

"Druce, Druce, Druce," chanted the prisoners, who were within earshot of the handcuffed defendant. They erupted in whooping applause as they waited in a holding area before appearing in court.

It was Druce's first public appearance since he allegedly strangled and beat to death Geoghan, a convicted pedophile, on Aug. 23 while both were inmates at the maximum-security Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.

For most of his 20-minute appearance, Druce, 38, stood leaning against a wooden railing, his arms and legs casually crossed, and his head tilted upward, an intent and somewhat amused expression on his face.

When he first walked into the courtroom, Druce looked around and said, "What's going on?"

Attired in bright-red prison garb, his arms and hands heavily tattooed, Druce launched into a gripe session about prison conditions, saying he had been denied access to recreation and the law library, and that his property had been confiscated.

Worcester Superior Court Judge John S. McCann denied Druce permission to speak, but he burst out anyway. "Your honor," he said, "it is established there are 100 lawsuits, that every prisoner is afforded one hour a day recreation, five days a week, no less than two hour, I mean, three two-hour periods in the law library and reading material."

Druce also lifted his shirt in court three times, while telling McCann he has lost weight because of the fouling of his food by prison guards and other inmates.

"I lost at least 20 pounds because they got people spitting in the food. I've found feces in that food. I've tried to discuss this with the superintendent of the institution and it's on camera, everything is on camera, and he said you deal with" Deputy [Thomas] Dickhaut, deputy superintendent for operations.

McCann denied Druce's request to be moved from Souza-Baranowski to the Cedar Junction state prison in Walpole and told Druce to address his complaints to prison officials. Justin Latini, spokesman for the Department of Correction, declined to comment yesterday on Druce's allegations.

Lawrence J. Murphy, the Worcester County assistant district attorney who will prosecute Druce, said little during the hearing and later declined to be interviewed about the case.

Outside the courthouse after the arraignment, John H. LaChance, Druce's court-appointed attorney, told reporters that Druce had a message for his father, Dana Smiledge, who told the Boston Herald on the day of Geoghan's murder that his son, as a child, was a longtime victim of sexual abuse by adult men.

"If you knew about my being sexually molested, why didn't you do anything to protect me?" LaChance said, quoting Druce.

Smiledge -- who told the Globe that Druce had a hatred of homosexuals, blacks, and Jews -- could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Druce, in a letter to a Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press, last week said he was child abuse victim. Yesterday LaChance said, "I can confirm he was a victim of sexual abuse," but he declined to offer evidence.

Questioned by reporters, LaChance said the abuses occurred when Druce was between the ages of 8 and 12. Asked if Druce was abused by a priest, LaChance said, "No, I don't believe so."

LaChance said he is investigating an insanity defense.

When he was killed, Geoghan, 68, was serving a nine- to 10-year sentence for molesting a 10-year-old boy. Allegations that Geoghan sexually assaulted nearly 150 children, mostly boys, helped spark the clergy sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church.

In court yesterday, LaChance told the judge that, according to Druce, "there is some pressure being put on him to implicate other individuals" in Geoghan's murder. LaChance declined to elaborate after court.

Although he was denied permission to speak, Druce told the court that Dickhaut told him, "You are mine now. He says, `Until you give me what I want, you are staying here, and you will receive the treatment that I want you to receive'."

Dickhaut also confiscated documents Druce had prepared on the Geoghan murder, Druce said. "All the facts that would have helped me defend myself," he said. "And he has taken that into his possession and refuses to give it to me . . . ."

Druce also complained about where he is being kept.

"They have me in a hospital unit that is only good for people like that are cut up, cut their wrists and cut their throats. They do 24 hours on an eyeball watch, 24 hours on a 15-minute watch, and they go back to seg [the segregation unit].

"But this guy is keeping me on the unit to deny me my constitutional right to one hour a day to recreation, my constitutional right to a law library, which any book in this court will show that, no matter what condition, even Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was afforded these opportunities, which I am being denied. And, look, the guy is starving me to death."

McCann then cut in: "Now you are repeating yourself. You have made your point to the court."

Sean P. Murphy can be reached at

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