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Cardinal questioned for 2d day

Judge orders delay in release of transcript

By Thomas Farragher and David Arnold, Globe Staff, 5/11/2002

Cardinal Bernard F. Law resumed his sworn testimony yesterday about his supervision of a pedophile priest, but a transcript of his answers to questions under oath was ordered withheld by a judge who said Law must have a chance to review it first.

Law, whose deposition began in Suffolk Superior Court on Wednesday, was questioned yesterday at the archdiocesan headquarters in Brighton by lawyers for 86 plaintiffs in civil lawsuits against defrocked priest John J. Geoghan.

Lawyers said his four-hour testimony roughly tracked his first day of testimony in which Law said he depended on his chief deputies to investigate charges that Geoghan had assaulted seven boys in one extended family.

Law's lawyer asked Judge Constance M. Sweeney to grant the cardinal the same 30-day review period of his deposition that is routinely accorded defendants in civil cases. Over the objections of lawyers for Geoghan's victims, the judge swiftly agreed during an early afternoon conference call.

J. Owen Todd, one of the cardinal's lawyers, said Law's legal team had not been aware that the transcript of Law's first day of testimony was being released within hours of its completion.

''I don't think anyone knew it was happening until they got back to their offices,'' said Todd, a former Superior Court judge. ''There was no problem with it, but it did seem very unusual.''

Todd, who was recently retained by Law as his personal counsel, said that in issuing her order yesterday, Sweeney was merely upholding court rules that give witnesses who are deposed a month to review a transcript of their deposition, correct any perceived errors, and swear to the accuracy of the final document.

Todd said Law may take fewer than 30 days to review transcripts of his testimony.

Mitchell Garabedian, the lead attorney for Geoghan plaintiffs, also said he does not believe Sweeney's order is unusual. ''There is no special treatment here given to the deponent because he's Bernard Cardinal Law. It's standard operating procedure,'' he said.

The issue was raised yesterday after lawyers for Law took exception to the appearance of transcripts of Law's testimony on the Internet, said Garabedian.

He said he filed a copy of Law's testimony with the clerk of the Suffolk Superior Court Wednesday, but by then it was already available online.

The Globe and other news organizations posted transcripts of Law's remarks on their Web sites after purchasing the material from court reporters, or stenographers, covering the deposition.

Asked why news organizations were permitted to obtain and air the transcripts Wednesday and not yesterday, Garabedian said: ''The issue wasn't addressed.''

Aides said Law was not pleased with the media coverage that accompanied the first deposition of a US cardinal over issues of clergy sexual abuse occurring in his own archdiocese.

''They wanted to control how much spin was out there in the media,'' the Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for Law, told the Associated Press, referring to the plaintiffs' lawyers.

Neither Garabedian nor Todd would discuss specific questions posed to Law during the deposition. But both of them said the general areas of questioning focused on Law's responsibility for Geoghan's career as a priest in the archdiocese, and last Friday's Finance Council vote rejecting a $15 million to $30 million settlement of the 84 lawsuits.

Sweeney's order to delay the release of a transcript of Law's testimony came as no surprise to trial attorneys.

''The judge certainly has the authority to issue an order like that,'' said Michael Avery, a professor at Suffolk University Law School and the author of a widely used handbook on rules of evidence. ''What's unusual is to be halfway through a deposition and see it in a newspaper.''

Avery was referring to the widely published excerpts Thursday of the first day of Law's deposition, which resulted in national headlines about the cardinal and the role he played in the scandal.

Although the text of Sweeney's order was not available yesterday, Avery said he believes she was attempting to balance the public's right to access to the proceedings with the orderly administration of justice. ''There's a right to access but not necessarily as it is occuring,'' he said.

One of Geoghan's alleged victims, Patrick McSorley, who charges that he was molested by Geoghan after the then-priest took him out for ice cream in 1986, attended yesterday's session and said he could not bring himself to shake the hand that Law offered him as the morning testimony got underway in the Creagh Research Library on the chancery grounds.

''I'm sorry, I'm in a bad way right now. I cannot shake your hand,'' McSorley said he responded to the cardinal.

McSorley, 27, of Hyde Park, characterized the cardinal's testimony as evasive and not believable. ''It was despicable,'' said McSorley, who said he was 12 when Geoghan molested him. ''We couldn't get the truth out of someone who is supposed to tell nothing but the truth.''

At a news conference after the deposition, Garabedian said he will require time beyond Monday, when the deposition is scheduled to resume, to complete the cardinal's testimony under oath.

Garabedian told reporters who crowded a Commonwealth Avenue sidewalk outside the chancery that he intended to bring two alleged victims of Geoghan's to the deposition on Monday, a practice he said was unusual. The lawyer said the experience of people like McSorely witnessing Law's testimony first-hand offers a degree of healing for those who accuse Geoghan of sexual abuse and blame Law for not terminating his priestly career sooner.

''I feel badly that there can only be two, because so many want to come,'' Garabedian added. McSorley said he intends to return on Monday. ''The reason I'm coming here Monday is that I want to see the cardinal come out with some truth, not just an `I can't remember,''' McSorley told reporters after the deposition. ''It's obvious he knew Father Geoghan was a pedophile, and when he got the letter exposing how Father Geoghan was diddling little boys, he pushed the responsibility off on someone else.''

In his testimony made public Wednesday, Law said that he could recall little about the critical events surrounding his 1984 decision to send Geoghan to a Weston parish after he abruptly removed him from a Dorchester parish where he had molested children.

Law received a letter from a Stoughton woman in September 1984, six months after he became Boston's new archbishop, alerting him that Geoghan had molested seven boys in her extended family. Law marked the envelope ''Urgent, please follow through,'' and forwarded it to his top deputy, Bishop Thomas V. Daily, who he said he expected would take appropriate administrative action.

Michael Rezendes and Sacha Pfeiffer of the Globe Staff contributed to this story.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 5/11/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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