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Spotlight Report

Former teacher to be arraigned on abuse charges today

By Sacha Pfeiffer, Globe Staff, 9/19/2002

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley yesterday formally announced the criminal indictment of the Rev. James F. Talbot on charges that he sexually abused three students at Boston College High School while he taught and coached at the school in the 1970s.

Talbot, 64, a Jesuit priest who has been living for the past two years at the Campion Center, a Jesuit residence in Weston, is expected to turn himself in to prosecutors this afternoon and be arraigned in Suffolk Superior Court.

Talbot, as the Globe reported yesterday, has been charged with one count of rape, one count of assault with intent to rape, and five counts of indecent assault and battery. The indictment alleges the crimes took place on Saturdays in the locker room at BC High, where Talbot conducted ''aggression drills'' by wrestling one-on-one with student athletes, often clad only in jockstraps, and then forcibly molested them.

The alleged victims, who ranged from 14 to 17 and lived in Dorchester, Milton, and Quincy, were sometimes given beer by Talbot before the matches, said Conley, who called the allegations ''a shocking breach of trust by a man who was a figure of educational, athletic, and spiritual authority for the young men he allegedly assaulted.''

After one assault, Conley said, Talbot - who graduated from BC High in 1955 and worked at the school from 1972 to 1980 - allegedly told his victim not to tell anyone because no one would take his word over Talbot's.

At least 12 other former students, including 10 from BC High and two from Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, where Talbot taught and coached from 1980 to 1998, have alleged abuse by Talbot since BC High announced in March that Talbot had been accused of ''inappropriate conduct'' dating to the 1970s. Another Maine man, Michael S. Doherty, received a private settlement last year in a lawsuit he filed accusing Talbot of molesting him in 1984 and 1985 when he was a Cheverus student.

The Society of Jesus, which is the formal name for the Jesuit order, also faces civil claims by those additional alleged victims. Those claims are being mediated by Paul A. Finn of Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation, who also helped broker a $13.5 million settlement with the Diocese of Providence for 36 alleged clergy sex abuse victims last week.

Boston attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., who represents several of Talbot's alleged victims, praised BC High and the Jesuits for their handling of the Talbot allegations, calling it ''a model process.''

BC High president William J. Kemeza has met with MacLeish's clients and has offered counseling services for them, MacLeish said.

At a press conference yesterday, one of MacLeish's clients, James P. Higgins, 46, of Easton, alleged that Talbot repeatedly sexually molested him when Higgins worked at the BC High rectory switchboard in the South End from 1970 to 1972, beginning at age 14. ''I feel vindicated,'' said Higgins, who has a pending civil claim against Talbot.

Ralph Ranalli of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Sacha Pfeiffer can be reached

This story ran on page B3 of the Boston Globe on 9/19/2002.
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