DA to Present Abuse Case against Dupre

By William Zajac
Republican [Springfield MA]
March 4, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - The Hampden County District Attorney today announced there is probable cause to pursue a criminal prosecution of former Bishop Thomas L. Dupre, making him the first U.S. bishop to potentially face charges relating to sexual abuse allegations.

Calling the allegations "credible and consistent," District Attorney William M. Bennett said he plans to bring before a grand jury charges that Dupre sexually abused two boys more than two decades ago. The grand jury will also be asked to review other possible charges, including whether Dupre concealed evidence relating to the allegations.

"Our preliminary investigation indicates that a number of communications to the diocese regarding sexual misconduct by Dupre were concealed and never provided," Bennett said. "Another very important consideration in this case is of course the victims. I do not want to prosecute any case without their full support."

The mother of one of the alleged victims told The Republican she sent the bishop two letters last year about the allegations. A lawyer for the men said the bishop also told one of them he received an anonymous email about the allegations.

Diocesan officials said they found no such communications after Dupre left.

Bennett said a grand jury probe would not be limited to the two alleged victims and could look at whether any crimes were committed outside the Springfield diocese.

Dupre announced his immediate retirement on Feb. 11, the day after The Republican confronted him with allegations he sexually abused two boys, 12 and 13, when he was a parish priest.

The newspaper, which investigated the allegations last year, was awaiting a decision by one of the men to bring the charges forward. When that didn't happen, the newspaper brought the allegations to the bishop himself in detailed, written questions.

The men, represented by Boston lawyer Roderick MacLeish, issued a detailed statement regarding the allegations against Dupre within a week of his retirement. They said the abuse began when one was a 12-year-old refugee and that the second boy later was also abused in encounters in which Dupre showed them gay pornography and plied them with liquor.

Some of the alleged abuse occurred on out-of-state trips, according to the men, and Bennett said he is looking at laws that may allow criminal prosecution relating to those allegations.

Both men have cooperated so far with the district attorney's investigation. Bennett traveled to Boston last week to interview both of them himself.

The bishop is being treated at St. Luke Institute in Silver Spring, Md., which has treated priests with a range of mental and addictive disorders, including those accused of sexually abusing children. He has yet to answer the charges, and his lawyer, criminal defense attorney Michael O. Jennings, said he has advised his client not to comment.

The charges came after the bishop went on a public campaign against gay marriage in Massachusetts as part of a combined effort by all the bishops in the state. One of the alleged victims said in his statement he decided to come forward because he is now gay and was angry at Dupre's hypocrisy.

Both men live out of state. The newspaper had received an anonymous email tip about the alleged abuse in the fall of 2002. It found the mother of one alleged victim, who knew nothing of the allegations.

She later confronted her son, who acknowledged the alleged abuse. The mother unsuccessfully tried to get her son to press charges last year.

He recently met with the bishop at a Sturbridge restaurant and asked for an apology, according to both the mother and the statement from the alleged victims. According to the man's statement, the bishop did apologize but told him he believed the relationship was consensual.

A new law mandates that priests and other religious officials report allegations of child abuse to law enforcement or state child welfare officials. The bishop had not reported any such allegations.


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