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A new site from the Boston Globe includes news updates on clergy abuse and other Catholic issues.
 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 found guilty of sex abuse

Boy was assaulted at Waltham pool

By Kathleen Burge, Globe Staff, 1/19/2002


John Geoghan stands in court as his guilty verdict is read. (Globe Staff Photo / Kevin Wisniewski)

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Geoghan found guilty of sex abuse
Next trial set for February
Judge denies delay on papers

ohn J. Geoghan, the former priest whose decades of alleged sexual abuse cost him his collar and brought a public apology from the cardinal, was found guilty yesterday of indecently touching a 10-year-old boy at a public pool a decade ago.

Geoghan, 66, spent his first night in jail last night after jurors, who had deliberated about eight hours, convicted him of the first criminal charges brought against him.

"Where am I going now?" asked Geoghan, who had been free on bail, before he was led out of the courtroom by a court officer who did not place him in handcuffs.

The Archdiocese of Boston, which has settled 50 civil lawsuits filed by victims of Geoghan at a cost of at least $10 million, released a three-paragraph statement saying it was grateful that a verdict had been reached.

"We hope that the victim finds some measure of consolation and satisfaction in this verdict," the statement said. "We pledge our prayers for all victims of sexual abuse and their families.

"On behalf of the Archdiocese of Boston, we again apologize to all victims of sexual abuse by clergy, and their families, and in particular, those abused by John Geoghan."

Geoghan has been accused of molesting at least 130 children since the 1960s, but he has been criminally charged with assaulting just three. Geoghan is also named in 84 civil lawsuits alleging sexual abuse.

Legal documents filed in connection with those lawsuits will be made public on Jan. 25.

Last week, Cardinal Bernard F. Law took the unusual step of publicly apologizing to Geoghan's victims, saying he regretted sending the priest to his final assignment at St. Julia's parish in Weston in 1984, after he knew Geoghan had been accused of pedophilia.

Law's apology was prompted by a Jan. 6-7 Globe Spotlight Team series, which reported that Geoghan was assigned to parishes throughout the 1980s, even though the cardinal and other ranking church officials were aware that Geoghan had abused children in at least three parishes.

The assault at the Waltham Boys' and Girls' Club pool, which Geoghan was convicted of yesterday, took place while Geoghan was at St. Julia's.

Geoghan faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence, but since he has no criminal record it is unlikely he will receive the maximum. Middlesex Superior Court Judge Sandra Hamlin has scheduled a presentencing hearing for Wednesday.

Geoghan's lawyer, Geoffrey Packard, said he will appeal.

After the verdict was returned, prosecutors tried to reach the victim, now a 20-year-old college student, but after testifying Wednesday he returned overseas, where he is spending his junior year.

Other alleged Geoghan victims rejoiced in the hallway after the verdict was read. Mark Keane, 23, had taken time off from work to watch the trial.

"This is a moment of joy for me," said Keane. "He's a sick man." Keane is among those who have filed civil lawsuits against Geoghan.

Because of differing and sometimes hazy testimony by the victim and his mother, Keane said, he had feared that Geoghan would be acquitted.

The two had offered starkly different stories about how the former priest slipped his hand beneath the boy's bathing suit in the Waltham Boys and Girls Club pool and squeezed his buttocks.

The victim, who could not recall exactly how old he was at the time, said he thought the incident took place in 1990; his mother thought it was 1992; prosecutors argued that it was 1991.

"Juries always give messages," said Suffolk University Law School professor Marc Perlin. "And the jury in this case gave a message that what occurred was not acceptable. Maybe they're giving a message that the way the church responded in some way is not acceptable, but the one message they gave was there was enough evidence to convict.

"`My guess is that if you were to interview the jurors, none of them would tell you that," he said. "But it's hard to avoid speculating that perhaps there is a secondary message in the jury verdict. I think the floodgates have been open already."

Maryetta Doussord, who is the mother or aunt of seven alleged victims of Geoghan, smiled and hugged Keane tightly after the verdict was read. "We needed this," she said to him.

A few hours earlier, Doussord had begun sobbing uncontrollably as she described Geoghan's alleged abuse. "He had no right to rape our children," she said. "He had no right to take their innocence away."

She was angry that Geoghan has arrived each day wearing a black suit, white shirt, and black tie, clinging, as she saw it, to the colors of the priesthood. "It's insulting," she said. Geoghan was defrocked in 1998.

Prosecutors were pleased with the outcome. "We are satisfied with today's verdict," said Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley. "Although the allegations in this case to some may have seemed slight, those of us who work with children . . . know that even one incident of unwanted sexual contact or conduct can be harmful to that victim and have a long-lasting effect."

Mitchell Garabedian, the lawyer for nearly all of the alleged victims who have filed civil lawsuits against Geoghan, said, "All my clients feel as though it's a giant step in the healing process."

After the verdict, Geoghan's lawyer read a statement from the former priest's sister, Catherine, 68. While free on bail before trial, Geoghan has lived with her in Scituate and West Roxbury.

"She is devastated," said Packard. "She thinks that her brother is the best brother in the world and she loves him. She cannot understand how a jury that heard so many contradictions could return with a conviction in this case."

Catherine Geoghan's devotion to her brother has been clear throughout the trial. She has sat behind him every day in court, walking in tiny steps to talk with him during each break.

Some days, the two shared brown-bag lunches in the courtroom. He often helped her with her coat at the end of the day.

Although Geoghan looked solemn during trial testimony, he sometimes seemed jovial during breaks, talking with his sister and joking with reporters.

Hamlin refused to release the names of jurors yesterday, saying that she was wary of the intense emotion generated by the case, which had attracted national media attention.

During the trial, Hamlin said, one of Geoghan's other alleged victims had brushed twice against Catherine Geoghan in the hallway; Geoghan later told court officers she felt a metal object.

Mac Daniel of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Kathleen Burge can be reached by e-mail at kburge@globe.com.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 1/19/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.


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