|[an error occurred while processing this directive]||
Prosecutors ask judge to reinstate dismissed rape charges against Geoghan
By Ken MaGuire, Associated Press, 05/24/02
BOSTON -- A jury, not a judge, should have the final say on whether the statute of limitations protects defrocked priest John J. Geoghan from rape charges, prosecutors argued Friday.
Prosecutors told Suffolk Superior Court Judge Margaret Hinkle that she should reverse her March 7 dismissal of an indictment charging Geoghan with two counts of rape of a child. She did not make a decision Friday.
A grand jury indicted Geoghan in 1999, more than three years after the statute of limitations expired, Hinkle determined in March. Geoghan, 66, had been charged with raping a boy between 1980 and 1984, beginning when the boy was 10 years old.
Geoghan, who is serving a 9- to 10-year sentence after being convicted of molestation in another case, was not in court.
The decision turns not on guilt or innocence, but on what year the boy reported the alleged rapes to law enforcement.
Prosecutors acknowledge police were told about fondling in 1986, but said the boy only reported the alleged rapes in 1989 -- within the 10-year statute of limitations to indict. Today, the state has a 15-year window.
"There is no evidence with respect to that (police) interview that there was a disclosure of oral rape," prosecutor Alex Philipson argued. "The case should proceed to a trial."
Recently discovered case law, Philipson said, supports his contention that judges shouldn't dismiss cases when there's conflicting evidence regarding statutes of limitations.
Geoghan's attorney, Geoffrey Packard, argued that the boy, who was 11 in 1986, didn't withhold any allegations.
"The complainant testified unequivocally ... he was very, very clear that he disclosed (the alleged rape) to his mother and to the district attorney," Packard told the judge.
Further, Packard argued, Hinkle has no choice but to uphold her dismissal because prosecutors didn't present evidence to contradict his argument.
The best prosecutors did, Packard said, was to present Boston police officers who previously testified that they cannot recall whether they were told about an alleged rape. Police reports were lost, prosecutors said.
Philipson said the alleged victim, now a 27-year-old Quincy mechanic with two sons, got the dates wrong.
"What we have here is a victim who is simply mistaken about the dates, that's all. He has the year wrong," he said after the hearing. "He only went to the D.A.'s office once during any of these years and there's no question that he did go in 1989. Everybody remembers it being 1989."
The Legislature in May 1996 extended the statute of limitations. It applies to any cases reported after May 23, 1986. The law also allows for the clock to stop running when the accused leaves the state.
Regardless of Hinkle's decision, Geoghan faces a second Suffolk criminal trial for abuse of a child stemming from alleged incidents in the 1990s. He was convicted in January in Middlesex Superior Court in his first criminal trial.
After the conviction, the Boston archdiocese forwarded to authorities the names of at least 80 former and current priests suspected of child sexual abuse in the past 50 years.
Philipson said it's unlikely Hinkle's decision will affect other districts.
"In every case, you have unique facts and unique circumstances," he said. "It's case by case. Our particular challenge is this issue about conflicting evidence."
Wally Shea, an assistant district attorney for Bristol County, said the ruling on Friday's motion will have no bearing on his investigations.
At least 20 of the 25 cases forwarded to the Bristol District Attorney's office cannot be prosecuted because of the statute of limitations, he said.
"It doesn't surprise us. We went through this experience over a decade ago with the Porter case," he said, referring to defrocked priest James Porter, who is serving an 18- to 20-year prison sentence.
More than 130 people have claimed Geoghan fondled or raped them during the three decades he served in Boston-area parishes.
Revelations that the archdiocese shuffled Geoghan from parish to parish after he was accused of molesting children has helped fuel a national crisis in the church.
The archdiocese recently backed out of a financial settlement of up to $30 million with 86 people who claim Geoghan molested them.
As a result, plaintiffs' lawyers continued their cases and have deposed Cardinal Bernard Law, who testified that he could not recall ever reading letters that warned of Geoghan's behavior.
© Copyright 2002 Boston Globe Electronic Publishing Inc.