Shanley Convicted in Church Abuse Trial

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Paul Shanley, the defrocked priest who is one of the central figures in the Boston clerical abuse scandal, was found guilty today of raping and assaulting a 27-year-old firefighter in the 1980s, when he was an altar boy at the church where Shanley was a priest.

The jury deliberated for nearly 15 hours before finding Shanley guilty on two counts of rape of a child and two counts of indecent assault. Shanley, who faces life in prison, was taken into custody after the verdict and his bail was revoked. He will be sentenced Feb. 15.

“We are elated. Anytime you can get a child molester off the streets is a good day,” said Bill Gately, co-coordinator of the New England chapter of the Survivors’ Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Gately and Ann Hagan, fellow coordinator of SNAP, said they would work hard to ensure passage of a bill in the Massachusetts Legislature to lift statues of limitation in child abuse cases.

“Only two percent of the (pedophile) priests ever get inside the courtroom because of the statue of limitation,” she said. “So many of us had to count on this for our own justice because our own cases could not be brought.”

But Teresa Shanley, the former priest’s niece who posted his bail, said: “There aren’t any winners here today, only losers. We’re no closer to finding out the truth or why it happened than we were before.”

Shanley became a target for public outrage in the scandal that erupted in Boston three years ago, when mountains of once-classified church documents showed that archdiocesan leaders knew of abuse allegations against Shanley from as far back as 1967, and knew that he had advocated sex between men and boys. Rather than removing Shanley from duties involving contact with children, church officials transferred him from parish to parish.

Shanley received approval from the archdiocese to transfer to a parish in San Bernardino in 1990. He later operated a hotel that catered to gay clients in Palm Springs, and was living in San Diego when he was arrested in May 2002.

Prosecutors dropped most of the charges against Shanley when three of his original four accusers either would not testify or could not be located. The remaining accuser — the firefighter — asked not to be named during the proceedings.

An hour before reaching its verdict, the jury of seven men and five women asked the judge if it could “review” a journal kept by Shanley’s accuser. At apparent issue were page headings in the journal indicating that the accuser was maintaining the journal at the direction of a Boston-based personal injury lawyer instead of a psychiatrist.

There were also questions raised during the two-week trial about possible back-dating of the entries in the journal. Judge Stephen Neel noted that only portions of the journal were entered into evidence and read as testimony.

“The answer to your question is, ‘No,'” Neel said in a note sent to jurors. “You must rely on your memory of the evidence, including any evidence relating to the journal.”

Last week during closing arguments, Shanley’s lawyer told the jury that “there isn’t reasonable doubt in this case. There is massive doubt in this case.”

Defense attorney Frank Mondano said Shanley’s accuser lied or exaggerated because he wanted money and publicity, declaring: “The core facts in this case are just not true.”

But prosecutor Lynn Rooney urged the panel of seven men and five women to use common sense. Why, she asked, would a 27-year-old married firefighter “come in here and tell you whatever,” taking the stand under intense questioning for almost 14 hours and describing memories so painful he was on several occasions reduced to tears?

Raising her voice, Rooney gestured toward the 74-year-old defendant and asserted: “That man, that defendant, that priest, molested him when was a little boy, over and over again.”

The jury met for half an hour Thursday and resumed deliberations Friday and today.

The closing arguments Thursday capped a two-week trial that at once relied on and challenged the concept of repressed memory.

The accuser last year won a $500,000 civil settlement from the church. In three days on the witness stand, he testified that Shanley orally and digitally raped him in the bathroom, the pews, the confessional and the rectory of St. Jean’s Parish in the Boston suburb of Newton. He said the abuse took place between 1983 and 1989, when he was 6 to 12 years old.

The accuser said he had no recollection of the abuse until 2002, when he was serving in the Air Force in Colorado. After his girlfriend called from Boston to tell him about two newspaper articles — one about Shanley, and the other about a Sunday school classmate who said Shanley raped him — the accuser said memories of his own abuse came flooding back.

But Mondano maintained that the accuser fabricated the abuse story as a way to get out of the Air Force. He said the testimony was filled with discrepancies and exaggerations connected to the accuser’s “desire to be important, the desire to be famous.”

Shanley, gray-haired and wearing hearing aids, watched intently as his lawyer said: “The testimony does not stand and will not support even a hint of a suggestion that anything wrong happened.”

Rooney flashed pictures of the accuser as a smiling child with dark, curly hair as she told jurors that the accuser had no incentive to lie.

“Did [the accuser] come in and just lie about it for the money?” she asked. “He has the money What did he get from coming in here? He sustained long, painful questions, and what did he get from it? It’s not about the money. Put that aside.”

With the accuser sitting in the front row of the spectators’ gallery — flanked by his wife and his father, and often holding his head in his hands — Rooney said that holes in the accuser’s recollections suggested that the stories were true.

“If it was a lie, it could have been a better lie,” she said. “If it had all been made up, wouldn’t there have been better details? But it wasn’t [made up]. It was a real memory.”

Shanley, defrocked by the Vatican last year, did not take the stand.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Los Angeles Times, USA
Feb. 7, 2005
Elizabeth Mehren, Times Staff Writer

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday February 8, 2005.
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