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  State Drops Abuse Case against Rev. Robichaud

By Associated Press
July 11, 2003

Laconia, N.H. — The state suddenly dropped its case Friday against a Roman Catholic priest during his second trial on charges that he raped a teenage altar boy nearly 20 years ago.

The Rev. George Robichaud was the first priest to face criminal charges in New Hampshire since the church-abuse scandal erupted in 2001. His first trial ended in April with a deadlocked jury over the accuser’s age — the same issue that led prosecutors to end the second trial.

The accuser, now a 33-year-old state trooper, testified Thursday in Belknap County Superior Court that he was certain he was 15 at the time of the alleged assaults.

That night, however, he “racked his brain” and concluded he was 16 — the age of consent at the time, said prosecutor Lauren Noether.

“Though the event occurred, the statute in effect at the time does not allow for prosecution ,” she said in a handwritten note to reporters.

“We had to drop this case on a sheer technicality,” she said later.

Robichaud, 60, “is relieved that it is all over,” said his attorney, Peter Callaghan. “We disputed what happened and maintained it did not happen at all.”

Robichaud, who had pleaded not guilty, had acknowledged having inappropriate sexual contact with the youth, but denies raping him.

The trooper testified that Robichaud took the boy to his cottage on Lake Winnisquam in 1985, fondled him and had anal sex with him briefly. The man said he pretended to be asleep but moved away after Robichaud penetrated him. Robichaud tried to rape him again but failed, the man testified.

Last year, the trooper, wearing a hidden recording device, met with Robichaud. The priest said he was drinking at the time and didn’t mean to hurt the trooper when he “played affectionately” with him.

“The victim feels the system worked and knows he has to be true to that system,” Noether said. “He feels his efforts were not in vain, that he has inspired others. He feels vindicated.”

Maggie Fogarty of Dover, a member of Voice of the Faithful and New Hampshire Catholics for Moral Leadership, called Friday’s outcome “outrageous.”

“My heart is broken for the victim, the survivor, here,” she said. “This is an added injustice to what he’s already endured.”

She said the age of consent doesn’t take into account how sexual predators seduce their victims over time.

“They get immobilized,” she said of the victims. “Their predators actually prepare them to not be able to say no.”

“I would hope that our judicial process would allow for what we know about abuse to impact the decisions we make about abusers,” she said.

 
 

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