Rape Case against N.H. Priest Dropped Due to 'Sheer Technicality'

Associated Press, carried in Tri-City Herald [Laconia NH]
July 11, 2003

LACONIA, N.H. (AP) - The state dropped its prosecution of a Roman Catholic priest Friday during his second trial on charges that he raped a teenage altar boy nearly 20 years ago.

Prosecutors ended their case against the Rev. George Robichaud because his accuser was 16, the age of consent, at the time of the alleged assaults. The jury in Robichaud's first trial in April had deadlocked over questions about the accuser's age.

The accuser, now a 33-year-old state trooper, testified Thursday that he was certain he was 15 at the time. That night, however, he "racked his brain" and concluded he was 16, prosecutor Lauren Noether said Friday.

"Though the event occurred, the statute in effect at the time does not allow for protection of the victim," she said in a note to reporters. She later said the state had to drop the case because of a "sheer technicality."

Robichaud, 60, was the first priest to face criminal charges in since the church-abuse scandal erupted over a year ago. He pleaded not guilty and denied raping the boy, though he acknowledged having inappropriate sexual contact with him.

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

The trooper testified that Robichaud took the boy to his cottage on in 1985, fondled him and had sex with him. The alleged victim said he pretended to be asleep at first but then moved away.

"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."


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