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  Priest Pleads Guilty As Sex Abuse Trial Set to Begin

By Denise Lavoie
The Associated Press, carried in Boston.com [Cambridge MA]
November 30, 2004

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - A priest charged with repeatedly raping an altar boy during the 1980s pleaded guilty Tuesday just as jury selection was set to begin in his trial.

The Rev. Robert Gale admitted raping the boy at St. Jude's parish in Waltham between 1980 and 1985, when the boy was between 10 and 15 years old. Prosecutors said the boy was sexually abused by Gale about twice a month. The alleged victim is now 34 and was in the courtroom with his parents Tuesday as Gale pleaded guilty to four counts of child rape.

"I feel at peace," Gale told Judge Charles Grabau.

His sentencing was scheduled for Wednesday, and Gale faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. Prosecutors and defense lawyers both declined to say whether they'd agreed upon a sentence recommendation as part of a plea deal.

Gale's attorney had argued during pretrial hearings that the charges should be thrown out because they were filed in August 2002, after the 15-year statute of limitations for rape had expired.

But prosecutors said Gale had moved to New Hampshire, and by leaving the state he'd temporarily stopped the clock on the statute of limitations. Gale claimed he was just visiting his sister in New Hampshire, and was actually living in Boston.

In May, a judge refused to dismiss the case, saying a jury should decide whether prosecutors filed the charges too late.

Gale, now 63, was one of dozens of priests accused of molestation in thousands of pages of church documents made public last year. The Boston Archdiocese has spent over $90 million to settle with more than 550 alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall told the judge that if the case had gone to trial, prosecutors would have presented evidence that Gale, then an associate pastor at St. Jude's, performed oral sex on the boy and forced the boy to perform oral sex on him on numerous occasions between May 1980 and April 1985.

When questioned by the judge, Gale admitted he sexually abused the boy repeatedly.

The victim first told a friend about the abuse in 1995 and reported it to authorities in 2002, according to prosecutors. Gale was indicted later in 2002.

In a report on the sexual abuse crisis within the Boston Archdiocese issued in July 2003, state Attorney General Thomas Reilly said allegations that Gale was sexually abusing children in the 1970s and early 1980s were brought to senior archdiocese managers in 1979, 1981, 1983, 1987, 1992 and 1994.

Gale, who is still a priest, has been on administrative leave. Under archdiocesan rules, a priest is put on leave when a credible accusation of abuse is raised.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said the church did not have a comment on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said Gale has not been defrocked, but is not currently assigned to a parish. Gale told the judge he is now working as a personnel resource staffer at a company he did not name.

Gale and his attorney declined comment after he pleaded guilty.

 
 

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