Priest's Attorney Says Sex Abuse Case Is Too Old

June 8, 2004

PHILADELPHIA The attorney representing the first priest to be charged by the Philadelphia grand jury investigating sexual abuse of minors by religious officials has filed a motion to dismiss.

Mike McGovern - attorney for Rev. James Behan - filed the motion, saying the case falls outside the statute of limitations.

"Our position is - whether the charge is shoplifting or rape or burglary - you can't wait 25 years and expect any American citizen to get a fair trial," stated McGovern.

The defense's motion blindsided the prosecution, which stood ready with Behan's accuser to go forward with the preliminary hearing. Instead, that was postponed until August.

Wil Spade, with the district attorney's office, expressed disappointment afterward:

"We think it's unfair to the victim to bring him all the way down here and then spring this on the Commonwealth at the last minute. And we think ultimately, when this issue is argued, the Commonwealth will prevail."

Behan is accused of sexually abusing a student at Northeast Catholic High School from 1978 through 1980.

Behan, now living in Maryland, was removed from active ministry in 2002, shortly after the accusations against him were made.


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