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Church settles with four in suit

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Spotlight Report

Tension grows in Shanley case

Prospect for a deal fading, lawyers say

By Michael Rezendes, Globe Staff, 10/12/2002

After a fifth day of pretrial testimony from Cardinal Bernard F. Law, lawyers for alleged victims of the Rev. Paul R. Shanley said yesterday that the possibility of a financial settlement in the high-profile clergy sexual abuse lawsuit appears increasingly remote and that the case could go to trial by January.

Attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr. said tension between Shanley's accusers and the Boston Archdiocese escalated yesterday after the church filed an emergency motion to delay a Superior Court ruling requiring the archdiocese to produce records on 75 to 80 current and former priests accused of sexual misconduct. Records on the accused priests have already been turned over to county and state prosecutors.

The legal filing by the archdiocese, which also says that the church plans to appeal the court order, came one day after a lawyer for Shanley was granted a delay of a separate order unsealing psychiatric treatment records of Shanley's stay at the Institute for Living, a Connecticut facility that has treated priests with sexual disorders.

Both orders were issued by Superior Court Judge Constance M. Sweeney, who is presiding over scores of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits against the archdiocese, including the Shanley case.

MacLeish said church attorneys led by Wilson Rogers Jr. waited until "the 11th hour" to file their emergency order and notify the court of their plans to appeal Sweeney's order. "We're not going to allow this case to be slowed down because of these obstructions. We're going to get these cases tried," MacLeish said.

Neither Rogers, the church attorney present during Law's deposition yesterday, nor any of the cardinal's aides met with reporters following Law's pretrial testimony. Rogers did not return a telephone call from the Globe.

In addition to the negligent-supervision suits filed against Law in the Shanley case, the onetime Boston "street priest" has been indicted on criminal charges that he raped four boys while working at the now-closed St. John the Evangelist Church in Newton during the 1980s. Shanley pleaded not guilty to those charges in July.

MacLeish, during an afternoon press conference following Law's deposition, said he would not rule out the possibility of a financial settlement but insisted he is preparing for trial. To that end, he introduced a new member of his legal team, San Francisco trial lawyer James A. Murphy. Murphy said he has defended psychotherapists accused of sexual abuse in cases in federal court in California.

"We are not optimistic about the prospects of settlement," MacLeish said. "There have been no settlement discussions with the archdiocese for months."

MacLeish was also accompanied by attorney Jeffrey A. Newman and Rodney Ford, the father of alleged Shanley victim Gregory Ford. Rodney Ford, who has been in regular attendance during Law's deposition, said the cardinal appeared short-tempered when responding to some of MacLeish's questions. "His demeanor was bordering on hostile," Ford said.

MacLeish said Law's deposition in the Shanley case is scheduled to resume next Wednesday.

Michael Rezendes can be reached at rezendes@globe.com.

This story ran on page B8 of the Boston Globe on 10/12/2002.
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