CAMBRIDGE -- Middlesex County prosecutors told a judge yesterday that an alleged victim of defrocked priest Paul Shanley might refuse to testify if he is publicly identified during the upcoming sexual abuse trial.
That would mean the end of the criminal case against one of the most notorious figures in the Boston Archdiocese's sex abuse scandal, Assistant District Attorney Lynn Rooney said.
''It is likely I will be back before the court telling you that we are unable to go forward" if the man is identified, Rooney said during a hearing in Middlesex Superior Court on whether the media should be allowed to report the alleged victim's name during Shanley's criminal trial.
The Associated Press, the Boston Herald, and The Boston Globe have challenged a judge's order issued earlier this week at the request of prosecutors, which bars the media from identifying alleged victims in the case.
In the three years since Shanley was arrested on child rape and indecent assault and battery charges, two of the alleged victims have spoken publicly about the case and were routinely identified in news reports. A third alleged victim has occasionally been identified, but a fourth was never named.
Prosecutors originally brought charges involving all four alleged victims. But over the past year, they dropped two alleged victims from the case, and plan to drop a third, leaving one accuser when Shanley goes on trial Jan. 18.
Lawyers for the three news organizations argued that the alleged victim had willingly given prior interviews and had allowed his photograph to be taken and published, and that the court order violates the First Amendment.
''This individual had in fact waived this privacy interest. His photograph appeared all over the place with his consent. He made a conscious decision to put his name out there," said Robert A. Bertsche, representing the Globe and AP. Judge Stephen Neel did not immediately rule.