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Spotlight Report

Priest pleads not guilty

By John Ellement, Globe Staff, 8/15/2002

CAMBRIDGE - During his first court appearance since he was charged last week with paying a teenager for sex during the 1980s, the Rev. Paul W. Hurley pleaded not guilty yesterday and said he's eager to prove his innocence and resume his priestly duties.

''I believe in the priesthood,'' said Hurley, who was ordained in 1970 and has been placed on administrative leave by the Archdiocese of Boston.

Hurley, 59, of Sandwich, said he is ''stunned'' by the charges and misses active ministry. ''It makes you feel empty. It really does,'' he said. ''I do still say Mass, but privately.''

Wearing his clerical collar, Hurley pleaded not guilty in Middlesex Superior Court to two counts of child rape for assaults that allegedly took place in 1987 and 1988 when he was assigned to the Blessed Sacrament Church in Cambridge.

Middlesex Superior Court Judge Geraldine Hines released Hurley on personal recognizance and ordered him not to have contact with the alleged victim or prosecution witnesses.

Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley last week told reporters that Hurley paid a 15-year-old South Boston boy $80 to $100 for sex, knowing that the teenager would use the money to buy drugs. The assaults took place inside the rectory of the Blessed Sacrament, she said.

Hurley told reporters after his arraignment yesterday that he knows his accuser but refused to talk about him, saying, ''It wouldn't be right.''

Revere attorney James J. Coviello, who represents Hurley, said the credibility of Hurley's accuser will be an issue at trial.

The 29-year-old man, whose name is being withheld by the Globe because he is an alleged victim of sexual abuse, pleaded guilty a year ago to federal bank robbery charges and was sentenced to six years and four months in prison.

According to court records, the alleged victim's criminal history dates back to 1987 when he was committed to the Department of Youth Services custody after being found delinquent on a charge of malicious destruction of personal property. He was convicted as an adult on robbery and drug charges.

Coviello criticized Hurley's accuser for waiting some 15 years to report the rape allegations, saying the lapse in time ''should raise an eyebrow. There is a credibility problem there.''

But Coakley told reporters last week that the alleged victim reported his allegations against Hurley a year ago, long before the widespread media coverage of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

Hurley said he believes that he has been swept up by the ''climate'' surrounding the scandal.

''It's a no-win situation for everybody, for the diocese, for myself, and for the alleged victims,'' he said. ''Nobody wins. It's just too bad.''

Hurley said he is ''sad'' and ''shocked really'' by the criminal charges, but added, ''Why be angry about it? It just eats you up inside. It's not worth it.''

Hurley had a small group of supporters in court yesterday, including Teddy Larkin of Bridgewater, who said he first met the priest when he was in elementary school in Roslindale.

''I feel that it's terrible that the Catholic Church has opened the door for these types of accusations, but I'm confident that he will be fine,'' he said. ''He's like family to me, Father Hurley. He's like an uncle, and I firmly believe in his innocence.''

This story ran on page A31 of the Boston Globe on 8/15/2002.
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