Geoghan report nearly complete
Officials may withhold some of their findings
By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 12/27/2003
As the official investigation into the murder of defrocked priest John J. Geoghan nears completion, state officials are warning that some parts of the long-expected report will probably not be disclosed.
"We want to release as much as possible, but we have to be careful of certain restrictions," said Christine Cole, deputy chief of staff to Edward A. Flynn, state public safety secretary. "My gut tells me there will be material in there that is not appropriate for release."
Cole said she was intentionally trying to temper expectations that the full report, a month overdue, would be released. "It is clear to me that people have [that] expectation," she said, "but I don't know what the actuality will be, and I don't want people to have unrealistic expectations."
She cited concerns for the privacy of the state Department of Correction officials whose roles in supervising Geoghan have been a focus of the four-month investigation. She also said that "witness statements" will be omitted from the report, because publication of those statements could compromise the prosecution of Joseph L. Druce, the prisoner accused of beating and strangling Geoghan on Aug. 23.
Asked whether Flynn's office was trying to avoid criticizing other state officials, Cole said, "That is not anyone's intent."
Leslie Walker -- director of Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, which represents inmates -- said that anything short of full release of the report would leave doubt about whether top managers will be held accountable.
"If we don't see everything in the report, how do we know what they really did, that it wasn't a whitewash?" she said.
Walker said prisoners have told her they have repeatedly complained to senior managers about a small cadre of allegedly abusive guards at MCI-Concord, to no avail. "Dozens, if not hundreds, of complaints were made without anything being done," she said. "A lot of that could be very embarrassing."
State Representative Kay Khan, a Newton Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would establish a Department of Correction citizens review board. She said that withholding portions of the report would betray earlier assurances by Flynn and Governor Mitt Romney that the process would be transparent.
"The public needs to know everything in that report," she said. "They should just lay it out. The purpose of the report should be to begin the process of overhauling the correction system."
The report, which was supposed to be finished Nov. 26, is being written and will be turned over to Flynn in January, Cole said. Susan Prosnitz, general counsel for the Executive Office of Public Safety, will review the report to help decide what to release, Cole said.
The report is intended to document whether state correction officials properly followed established policy and procedures in their management of Geoghan and Druce, according to what Flynn has said since Geoghan was killed.
Flynn, who oversees the Department of Correction and other state law enforcement agencies, has removed from office Correction Commissioner Michael T. Maloney.
Earlier this month, two state officials familiar with the investigation's findings said the report will contain sharp criticism of managers of MCI-Concord for failing to crack down on guards accused of abusing Geoghan.
But the investigation's findings spare managers at the Souza- Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley and focus on a design flaw in cell doors at that facility that allowed Geoghan's alleged killer to trap him in his cell, said the officials, who requested anonymity.
Geoghan was housed in Concord's protective custody unit following his conviction in February 2002 for fondling a boy in a public swimming pool. Allegations that Geoghan had abused nearly 150 children, mostly boys, helped spark the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
The report depicts the Concord prison as among the worst managed in the state correction system and describes a culture of tolerance of the kind of abuse that Geoghan complained about in his 13 months there, said the officials familiar with the investigation's findings.
Geoghan's lawyers and family have said they complained in telephone calls and letters to top managers that guards at Concord singled out Geoghan for abuse and harassment because of his notoriety and threatened to send him from the medium-security Concord prison to Souza-Baranowski, a maximum-security facility that houses more dangerous inmates.
The Concord managers dismissed the complaints from Geoghan and his lawyers and backed guards who filed what Geoghan's lawyers said were bogus disciplinary reports against the former priest, according to Geoghan's lawyers and family.
Geoghan told his lawyers that abuse at the hands of guards ended with his transfer to Souza- Baranowski. But officials said that on Aug. 23, Druce followed Geoghan into his cell after lunch and then beat and strangled him after jamming the cell door shut.
The report is the product of an investigation by State Police Major Mark Delaney; Mark Reilly, Department of Correction chief of investigations; and George Camp, a private correction consultant with experience in Massachusetts.
The report is expected to become a key record for use by a 15-member panel led by former attorney general Scott Harshbarger, named by Romney on Oct. 17 to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the Correction Department.
Sean P. Murphy can be reached at email@example.com.