Lawyer Says Girls Recant Rape Claim

By Richard Bourie
The Union-News
February 28, 1992

The teen-aged accusers of the Rev. Julian Pagacz, who is charged with rape and indecent assault, recanted their stories within 48 hours of the priest's arraignment Feb. 13, his lawyer said yesterday. Pagacz, the pastor of St. Valentine's Polish National Catholic Church here, is charged with raping a 16-year-old Polish girl who has lived in this country two years. Pagacz is interim pastor of the Holy Mother of the Rosary Church in Chicopee.

The single count of rape is based on a series of rapes alleged to have occurred between December 1989 and Jan. 3 of this year, according to the court complaint against Pagacz.

He is also charged with two counts of indecent assault and battery, one allegedly involving the Polish girl, another allegedly involving a 17-year-old girl who lives in Hampshire County, according to prosecutors.

Pagacz, 50, of 127 King St. has pleaded innocent to the charges in Northampton District Court and is free on his own recognizance. His next pretrial conference is scheduled for March 13.

Motions filed by Pagacz's lawyer in court contain the allegation that the victims have recanted their accusations against Pagacz.

Attorney Charles Maguire said in an interview yesterday that the Polish girl saw news of Pagacz's arraignment Feb. 13 on television and went the same night to police and told them the accusations were false.

"She explained in detail that she made false statements about (Pagacz)," Maguire said. "She was interviewed or interrogated late into that night; she insisted throughout that these things never happened and she explained the reasons she made the stories up."

Maguire would not disclose those reasons, saying to do so would compromise the anonymity of the girl.

City detectives working on the case refused to confirm the recantations or to discuss any other details.

Maguire has filed a motion in Northampton District Court asking a judge to order prosecutors to bring forth one of the girls to testify that the sexual crimes did not occur.

The defense attorney has also filed a motion seeking to allow Pagacz to have contact with the girls, on the grounds that both have retracted their accusations. At his arraignment, Pagacz was ordered to have no contact with the girls.

Maguire said both girls came to him in the two days following Pagacz's arraignment and recanted their charges in sworn depositions.

David Angier, an assistant Northwestern district attorney, acknowledged that "both victims allegedly recanted (the accusations) at one point" during the course of conversations with Maguire. Angier said prosecutors have received transcripts of those conversations. The transcripts were filed with Maguire's motions, but have been impounded by Judge Alvertus J. Morse, the presiding justice of Northampton District Court.

Retractions 'not uncommon'

Without saying the recantations are false or were made under pressure, Angier claimed it is not uncommon for child victims of sexual abuse to retract accusations. One psychological expert, he said, estimates a third of sexual abuse cases include false recantations. "We deal with this all the time," he said.

Maguire maintains his belief the accusations are false.

"Whatever social science says in the abstract, there were compelling reasons to lead (the Polish girl) to make up the story," he said.

Those reasons lie in a fact revealed by a prosecutor at Pagacz's arraignment, Maguire said, "that the girl was deathly afraid of getting sent back to Poland. That concern has nothing to do with sexual abuse and rape. It has to do with other things in her life."

As part of Pagacz's release, Judge Robert Kumor ordered Pagacz to turn over the Polish girl's passport, which he held. Police took him from the courtroom to the St. Valentine's rectory, where he turned over the girl's passport as well as travel documents that allow Pagacz to travel outside this country, police said.

Because he believes prior false allegations of sexual abuse may be admissible as evidence in Pagacz's defense, Maguire has also asked the court to order prosecutors to provide the defense with any accusations of sexual abuse the alleged victims may have made in the past, and details of any investigations made into any previous alleged sexual abuse of the girls.

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