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 Latest coverage

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 bore guards' abuse, inmate wrote

By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 9/12/2003

 Related stories
Geoghan killed
Geoghan's sister criticizes guards

Geoghan's sister to speak

Victims protest conviction erasure
Druce is hospitalized again
Guards' ad seeks understanding

Inquiry: Druce beaten as a child

Druce pleads not guilty to killing
Geoghan claimed guard assault

Report describes Druce in a rage

Letter says Druce abused as boy

Inmate: Geoghan bore abuse
Lawyer: Mail deluging accused

Expanded Geoghan panel sought

Druce is returned from hospital

McNamara: A back-page death

Geoghan consultant's ties eyed
McGrory: Romney can do better

Conflict issue raised on consultant

Bias concerns are raised in probe

No new members seen for panel

Geoghan panel will be expanded

Group assails prison guards
Geoghan is buried in Brookline
Op-Ed: Geoghan's 'innocence'

Priest in 'aggressive' case unit
Records show Druce as deviant
Voiding of record is challenged

Bid to keep Geoghan at Concord
Geoghan's death voids conviction
Prison units see volatile mixes
US attorney won't rush decision

Monthlong plot to kill Geoghan
Alleged killer led troubled life

Geoghan was tied and beaten
Death doesn't end victim suffering
Similiarities in suspect's '88 crime
Priest seen as a prison target

Geoghan is strangled in prison
A troubled life exploiting vocation

Geoghan case letters, documents
Law deposition in Geoghan case

 From the archives
Key stories in the Geoghan case

Church allowed abuse for years

Geoghan found guilty of sex abuse

Geoghan receives 9-10 years

Law recalls little on Geoghan case

Geoghan victims settle for $10m

 Complete coverage
The John Geoghan case

In a letter written to a lawyer seven months before defrocked priest John J. Geoghan was strangled in a cell, an inmate said that he had seen guards abuse Geoghan in Concord state prison and that he had written to top state corrections officials about the abuse of Geoghan and other inmates.

In his letter, a copy of which was provided to the Globe, the inmate cited a dozen examples of abuse he said he witnessed in the protective custody unit at the Concord prison. He offered in the letter to testify against guards if his lawyer decided to bring a complaint against the state Department of Correction.

The inmate wrote that he had seen guards defecate "in John Geoghan's bed and destroy his property."

According to the letter, dated Jan. 31, the inmate had previously complained about the protective custody unit at Concord to the office of the Correction Commissioner Michael T. Maloney.

"I have written several letters to the commissioner's office pertaining to the living conditions on that unit, and how the COs go out of their way to tune up inmates," he wrote, referring to correctional officers. The inmate's lawyer said "tune up" was an expression for abusing inmates.

Also yesterday Worcester District Attorney John J. Conte announced that Joseph L. Druce had been indicted by a grand jury in Geoghan's murder.

Druce, 38, is serving a life sentence, without possibility of parole for the 1988 beating and strangulation of George Rollo, 51, who Druce contends made a sexual advance after picking him up hitchhiking in Gloucester.

John H. LaChance, Druce's court-appointed lawyer, said yesterday that he is investigating Druce's mental health as part of a possible insanity defense. No court date has been set for Druce's appearance in court.

On the charges of abuse of inmates sent to the correction commissioner, a spokesman for Maloney said the commissioner's office receives numerous letters from inmates. Justin Latini declined to look for one that complained about the abuse of Geoghan and other inmates that was dated before Jan. 31, when the inmate wrote to his lawyer.

Latini also said he would not comment on the inmate's allegations without knowing his name.

The inmate's lawyer said his client has an established record of writing complaint letters to Department of Correction officials and other state offices.

"He is not shy," said the lawyer, who asked that neither he nor his client be identified because it would complicate the lawyer's own investigation into the allegations. The identities of the guards named in the letter are not being used because the guards could not be reached to comment.

Stephen Crawford, a spokesman for the prison guard's union, declined comment on the allegations contained in the letter.

The inmate's criminal record could not be determined yesterday, but a report by the Worcester Telegram & Gazette in the early 1990s said he had been charged with aggravated rape.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly confirmed yesterday that a letter from the inmate was received on April 9, 2002, but she said the attorney general's office declined to investigate the inmate's allegation of being beaten by a guard. She declined to provide other details.

In the Jan. 31 letter to his lawyer, the inmate referred to a letter he said he sent to the attorney general's office. "Because I filed a complaint," he wrote, "I was sent to the Shirley max," referring to the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Lancaster.

When he was killed, Geoghan, 68, was serving a 9- to 10-year sentence for molesting a 10-year-old boy. Allegations that he sexually assaulted nearly 150 children, mostly boys, helped spark the clergy sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church. Authorities said Druce beat Geoghan and used a bed sheet to gag, bind, and strangle the former priest after getting into Geoghan's cell in the protective custody unit at Souza-Baranowski.

Latini said that Maloney assigns staff members to investigate letters from inmates when it is deemed appropriate. The letter refers to incidents involving other inmates, whom the Globe is not identifying because the inmates could not be reached to corroborate the events.

In the letter, the inmate said he witnessed guards "ravage" through the "legal material" of a man who was convicted in the early 1990s of killing a boy, and said guards then accused that inmate of violating prison rules.

The letter also told about an incident in which a guard gave Marlboro cigarettes to an inmate to beat up another inmate who was was convicted in the late 1990s of murdering a boy.

The inmate who wrote the letter said that he was assaulted by a guard and that "all of my personal clothes were thrown away." Because he complained, he said, he was moved from Concord to Souza-Baranowski.

"As far as safety goes, there is none," he wrote of the Concord prison's protective custody unit. The guards "do whatever they see fit, and if they want to do something to you they will. And they have no problem letting someone else do it to you either."

The inmate wrote that he saw a guard blow his nose into a bowl of soup in the "chow line" and said that guards and inmates sometimes spit into the food of others.

A panel was appointed last month to investigate Geoghan's death and any practices and policies of the Department of Correction that may have contributed to the slaying. How Geoghan ended up in a maximum-security facility is one of the central issues being investigated by the three-member panel, along with whether abuse by guards prompted Geoghan's move to Souza-Baranowski.

Geoghan's lawyers at Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services have said that they lobbied correction officials to move him out of Concord to spare him abuse by guards, but that they did not want him at Souza-Baranowski.

The protective custody unit at Souza-Baranowski is intended for inmates "too aggressive" to be handled at the protective custody unit at Concord, according to a summary of a correction officials' meeting provided to the Globe. Geoghan, frail and halting, had no incidents of violence on his record since being committed to prison in February 2002, Kelly Nantel, a Department of Correction spokeswoman, said last month.

She said Geoghan was moved to the highest security prison because he was disruptive while at the lower-security Concord facility, primarily by disobeying guards and behaving in what she said was an "insolent" manner.

Sean P. Murphy can be reached at

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