Globe Probe: Geoghan Was Physically and Verbally Assaulted in Prison

Providence Journal [Boston MA]
Downloaded December 1, 2003

BOSTON (AP) - As convicted child molester John Geoghan gasped for air while being strangled, his alleged attacker told the former priest that his access to children would end, according to a written statement from the alleged killer to state police.

"Your days are over. No more children for you, pal," Joseph Druce told Geoghan before he strangled him to death, according to his statement to state police obtained by the Boston Sunday Globe.

As an officer called for emergency backup and screamed at Druce to open the door he had jammed from inside, Druce told the officer not to hurt him.

Geoghan was transferred to the maximum-security Souza-Baranowski facility in April from the medium-security MCI-Concord. He was killed in Souza-Baranowski in August. Druce, a fellow inmate, has pleaded innocent to the murder.

A Boston Globe review of internal prison documents and inmate correspondence, transcripts of interviews with lawyers and inmates and interviews of family and friends of Geoghan, reveal a frail man content to spend his days quietly in his cell at the medium-security MCI-Concord, but willing to stand up for himself when he felt he was treated unfairly, before he was transferred to Souza-Baranowski in Shirley.

The 68-year-old former priest, a key figure in the Boston Archdiocese clergy abuse scandal, was serving a nine- to 10-year prison term for groping a 10-year-old boy at the time of his murder, but he had been accused in civil lawsuits of molesting nearly 150 boys over three decades as a Boston-area priest.

While at Concord, Geoghan often complained that it was the prison guards who seemed to have a grudge against him, Geoghan's trial lawyer Geoffrey Packard said.

Correction Officer Cosmo Bisazza, seemed to be particularly tough on him, according to Globe interviews with Geoghan's lawyers, and a review of his disciplinary record at Concord.

"(Bisazza) is sadistic and he's a bully," said James Pingeon, director of litigation for Massachusetts Correctional Legal Services, who talked with many inmates after Geoghan's murder.

Between April 2 and Oct. 2 of 2002, Geoghan received at least 11 disciplinary reports for violating Concord's prisoner conduct code, the Globe found, and four of those were written by Bisazza.

The first one came six weeks after Geoghan sentenced, after Bisazza wrote him up for lying when Geoghan allegedly accused the officer of placing feces in his cell.

Bisazza did not respond to numerous requests for interviews and his lawyer declined comment citing the ongoing Geoghan murder investigation, the Globe reported.

But Joseph Guarino, the legislative representative for the Correction Officer's Union said Geoghan's accusations were baseless.

"The thought of a Correction officer defecating or urinating on a bed is just ridiculous," he said.

Packard wrote a letter following the incident to then-Concord superintendent William Coalter, complaining that Geoghan was verbally and physically assaulted by "a few corrections officers"

"If there are officers who are unable to master their emotions sufficiently to discharge their duties professional, perhaps they should be transferred to less taxing assignments," he wrote in his letter.

Two months later, Bisazza cited Geoghan for having expired medication in his cell and later for alleged verbal complaints made by Geoghan about Bisazza to another prison sergeant. He was also cited for calling another correction officer names and an obscenity - that Geoghan denied in handwritten rebuttal. With each offense, Geoghan lost either phone, canteen or visitation privileges, or all of them.

Packard, who represented Geoghan at disciplinary hearings, wrote another angry letter to Coalter, complaining about Geoghan's treatment, saying prison guards, including Bisazza, routinely called his client "Satan" or "Lucifer." In his letter, Packard also claimed the guards suggested that Geoghan and his sister had an incestuous relationship. He said they often ransacked Geoghan's cell for alleged contraband and damaged personal and religious items.

"It is nearly impossible to read the officer's accounts without inferring that they are part of a vendetta," he wrote.

Coalter, in a reply, said the alleged mistreatment would be investigated.

One of the most serious offenses lodged against Geoghan at Concord - and one that he most vehemently denied - happened when his sister Catherine Geoghan visited him on Sept. 5, 2002.

In a written account, Geoghan said he had just checked in for the visit, when Correction Officer Jason Harris rushed toward him.

"He ... veered into my path and hit me with his right shoulder (a strong body check) which slammed my right shoulder and 'spun me' around. (I'm almost 70 years old)," he wrote. He continued to say he was then verbally harassed by another officer while Harris "smirked and said some expletive."

The Department of Correction's official version of the incident was the opposite, saying Geoghan was the one who bumped into Harris, falsely accused him of assault and lied about the incident. For this, Geoghan lost phone, canteen and visitation rights for six weeks.

In what were to be his final months at Concord, Geoghan wrote to Karen DiNardo, Concord's director of classification in October, to complain that Bisazza had accused him of sexual misconduct in prison.

"(He) accused me of touching (a former cellmate) inappropriately," Geoghan wrote. "This is calumny, an outright lie. I've never touched (the cellmate) or any inmate ever in an inappropriate way."

In another letter to a legal adviser he wrote that he was "amazed at the audacity of the institution. To this 'novice,' it appears that some union has achieved 'Godly powers' and some small tail is wagging the dog."


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