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  Priest Apologizes to Accuser in Tape-Recorded Meeting

By J.M. Hirsch
Associated Press, carried in Foster's Daily Democrat [Laconia NH]
Downloaded April 17, 2003

LACONIA, N.H. (AP) - A former Roman Catholic pastor accused of raping a teenage boy in 1985 apologizes to his accuser in a secretly recorded conversation, saying he was drinking at the time and "played affectionately."

"I hated you, I hated you so much," the accuser, now a 33-year-old state trooper, is heard saying in the tape played for jurors Wednesday.

"I know you never meant to hurt me," said the trooper, whom police had wired with a recording device for his April 2002 meeting with the priest.

The tape was played during the trooper's second day of testimony at the Belknap County Superior Court trial of the Rev. George Robichaud, 58. Robichaud is the first priest to face criminal sex assault charges in New Hampshire since the church-abuse scandal erupted 18 months ago.

Robichaud has admitted to inappropriate sexual contact with the former altar boy, who regarded him as a father figure. Robichaud has pleaded innocent to rape and attempted rape. He has been on leave since he was accused last year.

His lawyer denies Robichaud admitted guilt in the recorded conversation and questions the trooper's recollection of his age at the time. The trooper has said he was 14, 15 or 16. The age of consent in New Hampshire is 16.

"I'm going by what I believe happened in my life. I'm here to tell the truth," the trooper told defense lawyer Peter Callaghan.

"But you still have doubts," Callaghan said.

"Five percent of me," the trooper said.

In his taped meeting at the Wolfeboro church where Robichaud was the pastor, the trooper discussed the clergy sex-abuse scandal then receiving wide news coverage. He said, "some memories have come up that have been really tough to deal with" regarding his relationship with Robichaud.

"I'm not looking for any type of revenge or retribution," the trooper said. "I am looking for an apology from you for the things that happened between us."

Robichaud responded, "Let me say something. You know I was drinking. I didn't mean to do anything to hurt you. ... I played affectionately, um, I am sorry."

The trooper said, "And I forgive you."

Robichaud said, "Now let me say this. I went to a therapeutic program, dealt with a lot of issues, OK? (inaudible) ... and even better understand my sexuality. And I'm sorry."

After the tape was played, the trooper testified that he didn't hate Robichaud. "I still have a lot of compassion for him because there were a lot of good times in my life with him."

Robichaud faces 71/2 to 15 years in prison on the rape charge under sentencing provisions in effect in 1985. The same crime today carries a sentence of 10 to 20 years.

The man said Robichaud befriended him in 1984 when the priest was pastor of of St. Anthony's and St. Stephen's churches in Swanzey. He visited Robichaud in Rome, where the priest was attending a conference at the Vatican.

He stayed for seven days in an adjoining room at a convent and said that Robichaud assaulted him, lying on top of him fully clothed.

In the spring of 1985, Robichaud took the boy to his cottage on Lake Winnisquam, fondled him and had sex with him briefly, the trooper testified. The charges resulted from that incident.

 
 

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