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October 25
Victims could now collect

October 2
Geoghan's sister hits guards

October 1
Geoghan's sister to speak

September 27
Conviction erasure protested
Druce is hospitalized again
Guard ad seeks understanding

September 24
Inquiry: Druce beaten as child

September 20
Druce pleads not guilty in slay
Geoghan claims guard assault

September 14
Report says Druce in a rage

September 13
Letter: Druce abused as a boy

September 12
Geoghan bore guards' abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluges accused

September 11
Expanded panel is sought

September 8
Druce is returned from hospital

September 5
Geoghan consultant ties eyed

September 4
Conflict raised on consultant

September 3
Bias concerns raised in probe

September 2
No new panel members seen

August 31
Geoghan panel to expand

Earlier stories

Spotlight Report

Geoghan dismissal to be appealed

Suffolk wants charges reinstated

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 3/21/2002

Hoping to revive the most serious sex abuse charges against former priest John Geoghan, Suffolk County prosecutors plan to appeal a judge's decision two weeks ago to throw out the case.

Superior Court Judge Margaret Hinkle said that prosecutors waited too long to indict Geoghan, now 66, on two charges of raping a child in the early 1980s. A grand jury indicted Geoghan in 1999, more than three years after the statute of limitations had expired, Hinkle found.

''To be honest, it's a relief,'' said the alleged victim's mother, who said prosecutors called her son Tuesday to tell him they would appeal Hinkle's ruling. ''Hopefully, this time it won't be dismissed.''

Prosecutors declined to comment yesterday. They have 30 days from Hinkle's March 7 ruling to file a notice of their intention to appeal.

In January, Geoghan was convicted in Middlesex Superior Court of indecently touching the buttocks of a 10-year-old boy a decade ago and was sentenced to serve six years of a 9- to 10-year prison term. He still faces two Suffolk County charges of indecent assault and battery for allegedly molesting a boy in the 1990s; that case was brought within the statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations has repeatedly dogged prosecutors in the dozens of sex abuse charges brought against priests - in Massachusetts and across the country - since many alleged victims haven't come forward until years after they say they were molested.

Last Friday, Suffolk County prosecutors announced that they would not pursue criminal charges against the Rev. D. George Spagnolia, the Lowell priest accused of molesting a 14-year-old boy more than three decades ago. And in California, a judge last week threw out 224 charges against a defrocked San Francisco priest accused of molesting nine boys in the 1960s and 1970s.

Although prosecutors investigated the charges against Spagnolia, who was forced out of his parish last month by the Boston Archdiocese, there wasn't much they could do. Even though the alleged victim knew it would be difficult for prosecutors to bring charges, he was disappointed with their decision, said his attorney Wendy Murphy.

''It just hurt to hear it finally, that the justice system had given a pass to someone who'd done a terrible thing,'' Murphy said.

The statute of limitations is a time limit designed to protect defendants against cases filed after so much time has passed that it is difficult to ascertain the facts.

In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations on child rape now expires 15 years after the alleged victim either turns 16 or reports the allegations to a law enforcement agency, whichever comes first.

Some states have thrown out the statute of limitations for child sex crimes, as Maine did in 1999. Victims' rights advocates have argued Massachusetts legislators should do the same.

''What better evidence is there that the statute is too short than the fact that we have hundreds of victims who have only recently begun to come forward - and there's nothing we can do for them in the criminal justice system?'' asked Murphy.

Hinkle's decision earlier this month to dismiss the two rape charges against Geoghan was based on her reading of the state's statute of limitations law. Suffolk Assistant District Attorney David Deakin had argued that although the alleged victim first reported in 1986 that Geoghan had fondled him, he hadn't reported until 1989 that the priest had also raped him.

And since Geoghan was indicted on rape, not fondling, the 10-year statute of limitations didn't begin running until 1989, he argued. That meant that when the Legislature extended the statute for child rape cases to 15 years in 1996, it applied to the Geoghan case, giving prosecutors until 2004 to indict him, he argued.

But Hinkle disagreed. She noted that when the alleged victim testified at a hearing last month, he said he reported ''everything'' - all of Geoghan's abuse - in 1986, disagreeing with prosecutors and with his mother. That ''stark conflict'' in testimony and other evidence, she wrote, persuaded her to rule that prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that law enforcement did not receive a report of oral sex until 1989.

Some lawyers, including Geoghan's lawyer, Geoffrey Packard, had argued that Hinkle's decision might be difficult for a higher court to reverse since it was very specific to the unique circumstances of the case. Packard is on vacation and couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.

Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented the alleged victim and his mother in a civil case against the Archdiocese of Boston settled four years ago, said he hadn't yet heard about prosecutors' decision to appeal. But, he said, ''My clients feel that the prosecution of Father John J. Geoghan in any criminal case is a significant step in the healing process.''

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 3/21/2002.
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