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Getting Out : Seeking Justice

Zerby read it and weep

from Albatross - Wednesday, January 26, 2005
accessed 1703 times

Thank you LA Times,0,2809159.story?coll=la-home-nation
Sexual Abuse Trial Starts for Former Priest
Paul Shanley faces charges of raping and assaulting a child in the '80s. His lawyer says the allegations are based on inconsistent stories.By Elizabeth Mehren
Times Staff Writer

January 26, 2005

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The trial of Paul Shanley, one of the most notorious figures in the Boston clerical abuse scandal, began here Tuesday with the prosecution invoking lost innocence and the defense explaining the case as one of faulty memory.

Shanley's accuser — a man now 27 years old — has said that between 1983 and 1989, the priest raped and assaulted him at a church in nearby Newton, Mass. If convicted, Shanley faces life in prison.

In her opening statement, prosecutor Lynn Rooney showed a picture of the accuser as a smiling 6-year-old and asked the jury to imagine that the year was 1983.

"This boy … sits in his Sunday school class at St. Jean's church," Rooney began. "He is waiting, dreading, afraid. He knows the priest will come. And so he does, week after week."

But Shanley's lawyer countered that the accuser's recollections were inconsistent and "orchestrated by the personal injury lawyers" who last year won an $85-million settlement from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston for hundreds of alleged abuse victims.

"This case is about two things: old memories and really, really old memories," Frank Mondano said. The defense lawyer noted that Shanley's accuser, who had asked not to be named in the media, received $500,000 in the settlement.

Shanley, who turned 74 Tuesday, is charged with three counts of child rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a child. The slender figure, with wispy gray hair and double hearing aids, bore little resemblance to the popular Boston street priest who once roared around the city on a motorcycle, clad in bluejeans. Having built a ministry for troubled youth, he was beloved by many in Boston in the 1960s and 1970s.

But when the clerical abuse scandal erupted here three years ago, Shanley became the target of public outrage.

Formerly confidential documents showed that church authorities knew of allegations against Shanley from as far back as 1967. Rather than removing him from duties involving contact with children, officials transferred him from parish to parish.

With the approval of Boston church leaders, Shanley went to a parish in San Bernardino in the early 1990s. Retired, he was living in San Diego when he was arrested in May 2002.

Shanley was defrocked by the Vatican last year.

Scores of Boston priests were accused in a child molestation scandal that led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law. Most avoided criminal trials because their alleged offenses occurred too long ago to be prosecuted.

But prosecutors in the Shanley case maintain that the clock stopped on Massachusetts' 15-year statute of limitations when he moved to California in 1990.

Most of Tuesday's witnesses were Boston-area priests who corresponded with Shanley while he was living out of state.

Shanley's accuser is scheduled to testify today.

Three other complainants dropped out of the case, one after going through extensive questioning by Shanley's defense team.

Mondano said he would call experts on "dissociative amnesia" — or repressed memory — to discredit the accuser's recollections about his alleged abuse.

The lawyer pointed to what he called inconsistencies in the accuser's statements about the sexual acts he said Shanley performed on him when the accuser was 6 to 12 years old.

"He forgot, he remembered, he forgot again," Mondano said. "The simple truth is that [the accuser's] story is not reliable."

In opening remarks that were sometimes graphic, Rooney said Shanley took the accuser out of religious education classes and molested him in the church pews, rectory and confessional. She said the priest continually warned the boy: "If you tell, no one will believe you."

She said Shanley made a habit of watching the accuser while he used the bathroom. She said they often played a card game called war. If the accuser lost — as he usually did — he was required to take off his clothes. If Shanley lost, he removed his own clothes, Rooney said. Win or lose, the accuser was molested as part of the game, she said.

Rooney said the accuser had dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player. When those hopes faded, he joined the Air Force and became a military police officer. The accuser's memories of his alleged abuse emerged in 2001 while he was stationed in Colorado, she said.

A jury of eight men and eight women will weigh the case against Shanley, who took notes throughout Tuesday's proceedings. Among the spectators in the small courtroom were about a dozen alleged victims of clerical abuse. Shanley's niece and a handful of supporters sat together in one corner.

The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Reader's comments on this article

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from ErikMagnusLehnsher
Wednesday, January 26, 2005 - 16:48


You mean you don't think the "False Accusers of the Last Days" Defense will hold up?

"My accusers were all favorable and still tithing to church until they hooked up with some Vandari who helped them re-write history and imagine abuse that the rest of my flock say never happened."

(reply to this comment)

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