|Abusive Priest Still at the Wheel
By Elizabeth Hamilton and Dave Altimari
Hartford Courant [Connecticut]
March 25, 2007
Stephen Foley was a priest first. But he was also a fire and police chaplain who sped to crime scenes and fires in a black sedan tricked out with all the bells and whistles of an official police cruiser - flashing lights, sirens, antennas, two-way radios, scanners.
Young teenage boys, understandably, were lured by Foley's car. Once they were in the front seat, however, it quickly became apparent that the car was a trap. According to the men who have since sued Foley, the priest plied the boys with alcohol and then molested them.
But despite the millions the Archdiocese of Hartford already paid to his accusers, and despite the fact that Foley is no longer associated with any fire or police agencies, the priest continues to drive a black Crown Victoria, The Courant has learned, with emergency lights in the grill and front and back windows, scanners, and antennas. The Crown Victoria is the official car of the state police.
It's not like the archdiocese shouldn't have noticed, either.
Foley parks his car at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, where he has lived for the past 14 years, performing no official duties as a priest but receiving free room and board, health insurance and a monthly stipend from the archdiocese.
A 1994 summary from a state police investigation into accusations against Foley makes clear how central the car was in the priest's ability to befriend young boys.
Foley targeted boys interested in becoming police officers and firefighters, the summary said, and promised them they would "chase fires." The boys "were fascinated with Foley's car because of the lights, siren and radio, and were thrilled to go to a scene 'code-3,'" the investigator wrote.
The fact that Foley is still driving around in the same type of car outrages his victims and others who have been affected by his behavior.
"It makes me sick to my stomach to think he's driving around in the same car as he was back then," said the victim known as John Doe in court papers, one of the first men to sue Foley. "I have visions of him still doing the same things he did to me to other kids."
Doe, now a husband and father, shook slightly with anger as he spoke.
"I don't see how the archdiocese is letting him get away with it," he said. "It's a slap in the face to me and his other victims."
Doe's case was resolved last year in Middletown court when he received an $850,000 settlement from the archdiocese, according to his lawyer, Robert Reardon. He agreed to be interviewed under the condition that his anonymity be protected.
The Rev. John Gatzak, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Hartford, said Friday that he doesn't know if church officials were aware Foley was driving a Crown Victoria before The Courant brought it to their attention.
He also said no one has ever specifically requested that the diocese forbid Foley from driving the same type of car he used when he molested young boys.
"Nobody carried it a step further and suggested that there might be a problem for him to drive that sort of car," Gatzak said. "But, certainly, the archdiocese is very concerned and we will follow up on this."
When asked how it could be possible no one had noticed Foley driving the car, considering that the seminary serves as office space for the archdiocese and a residence for other priests, including former Archbishop Daniel Cronin, Gatzak said, "I tend to think they did, but I don't know that."
New revelations about the Foley case don't stop at the Crown Victoria. A Courant investigation, based on never-before-released civil depositions, interviews with state investigators and newly disclosed state police and Department Of Motor Vehicles documents, reveals:
State troopers who investigated Foley contend the Hartford Archdiocese "stonewalled" their probe.
Foley used an affiliation with a regional fire chief's group to buy a Crown Victoria - loaded with emergency lights and scanners - without the group's knowledge. A state lawmaker, alerted by The Courant to the circumstances under which Foley bought the car, said he may call for a criminal probe.
Foley was allowed to continue his chaplain duties for several public safety organizations after he was removed from public ministry.
State police investigative files were destroyed in the midst of numerous lawsuits being filed against Foley.
'I Just Can't Believe He Did That'
There have been 11 sexual abuse complaints against Foley since the early 1990s, according to Gatzak, some of which resulted in lawsuits and some of which were settled out of court.
Three of the lawsuits were resolved in 2005 as part of a $22 million settlement the archdiocese reached over accusations against 14 of its priests. Gatzak declined to say how much money the church has paid out over the years related to Foley, but other sources put the total at more than $2 million.
Foley has repeatedly said he is innocent of all the accusations against him. In a 2003 deposition, he told the plaintiff's lawyer that he did not recall any of the names of his alleged victims and insisted that he has maintained his vow of celibacy throughout his career.
His lawyer, Walter Hampton, declined to comment for this story.
Although the archdiocese removed Foley from his Glastonbury parish in 1993, when it received an abuse complaint against the priest, and installed him at the seminary, church officials did not strip Foley of his right to wear the Roman collar or participate in public ministry until 2002, when the first lawsuits were filed.
Foley, like many other Catholic priests involved in the church's nationwide sex scandal, was transferred repeatedly among parishes during his career - in his case to Bloomfield, Windsor Locks, West Hartford and Glastonbury.
Throughout that time, he served as chaplain for numerous local fire departments, the state police, the Hartford County mutual aid association and the New England Association of Fire Chiefs.
Foley appears to have used the fire chiefs association's name without permission to purchase a new Crown Victoria in 2000, paying $20,894 for a car with "police" equipment. The title and registration papers for the car list the association as the owner, but Foley signed all the documents and wrote down his own West Hartford post office for the association's address.
Foley transferred ownership of the car to himself at no cost after a few months, according to Department of Motor Vehicles records, then traded it in for a new, fully loaded Crown Victoria two years later under a special deal offered only to law enforcement officials. The cost: $3,900. This is the same car he is driving today.
Members of the fire chiefs' association were stunned last week to learn that they had purchased a car for Foley in 2000. The association does not purchase vehicles for any of its members, association leaders said, because they already have their own through their respective fire departments.
"I just can't believe he did that. The New England Association of Fire Chiefs has been taken advantage of by this guy," said the Rev. Larry Provenzano, an Episcopal chaplain for the association and chief of chaplains for the state of Massachusetts.
State Rep. Michael Lawlor said Friday that if Foley "wasn't authorized to purchase the car then it is a crime and he should be prosecuted for that." Lawlor said state Public Safety Commissioner John Danaher should either do an internal investigation or ask the chief state's attorney to decide whether a grand jury should be convened.
Provenzano was equally angry that the archdiocese has allowed Foley to continue to drive what appears to be a police cruiser.
"They should be ashamed of themselves," Provenzano said. "I am incensed that they have not shut him down. They've got to know that if the allegations have been made around the car, they shouldn't let him drive the car."
Doe and Provenzano aren't the only ones raising questions about how Foley's case has been handled.
Another accuser, Tony Lembo, is holding a press conference at the state Capitol Monday to discuss how state police handled a criminal investigation of Foley in the early 1990s.
'Stonewalled' At Every Door
Foley had been serving as their chaplain for almost 20 years when state police received a complaint on Dec. 16, 1993, from a Boston firefighter who said the priest had molested him and other teenage boys. Two detectives from Troop H, Adrienne LaMorte and Roger Beaupre, were assigned the case.
The victims all told a version of the same story - they were impressed that Foley was the state police chaplain because they could ride in his police car right up to accident and fire scenes. Along the way, Doe said, Foley plied them with Yukon Jack and Southern Comfort from a fully stocked bar he kept in the back. He even had special fire jackets made up that said "Chaplain's Assistant" on the back.
One accuser told investigators that Foley would come to his house at all hours of the night, sometimes rousing him out of bed, "under the premise of taking him to a fire scene, when in reality the reason was for some sort of sexual contact."
Others said Foley would invite them to spend the night with him at Christ the King church rectory in Bloomfield for the purpose of responding to scanner calls and but would then fondle and masturbate them.
The detectives interviewed more than 50 people, including at least six accusers, according to state police records. Nearly all of the accusers interviewed by state police were different from those who sued Foley years later.
But pulling a case together took more time than the detectives expected.
"The archdiocese stonewalled us at every door possible," Beaupre said. "Every request we made to them took weeks to get a response, even what assignments Foley had within the archdiocese."
The archdiocese had not returned a call for comment on this accusation as of Friday night.
The two had three binders worth of evidence when they applied for a warrant. But the case stalled when then-Hartford State's Attorney John Bailey refused to sign a warrant because the statute of limitations had expired, LaMorte and Beaupre said. Most of the allegations against Foley stemmed from the mid-'70s.
The officers said that after the warrant was rejected they lobbied their superiors to go public with the investigation.
"I thought if we went public that we were investigating this priest, that perhaps we'd get some victims to come forward that would have been within the statute of limitations," LaMorte said.
But the investigators were told to shut the case down, they said, for reasons they never understood.
"We worked hard to put Foley in jail, but ultimately time worked in his favor regarding the statute of limitations," Beaupre said.
For years, LaMorte carried her copy of the case files with her between jobs, thinking the case might resurface some day. But when she left the state police after suing the department for illegally transferring her from the polygraph unit, she threw them out.
LaMorte didn't hear anything about Foley until she got a call from her old partner, Beaupre, saying the case files had been requested by police headquarters. She doesn't remember the exact date of that call, but said it was after the lawsuits against Foley had been publicized in 2002.
Then things get even murkier.
When Reardon, Doe's lawyer, subpoenaed the detectives' investigative files on Feb. 17, 2004, he was told they had been destroyed by the state police as part of their regular records retention program.
According to court records, the files were destroyed on Jan. 24, 2004 - two years after at least a half-dozen lawsuits were filed alleging that Foley used his position as a state police chaplain to entice boys into his car.
Reardon said the timing of the record-shredding was "suspicious" at best.
"It sure doesn't look too good that the file was destroyed after the lawsuits were filed and after both the archdiocese and the state police would have known that we'd be looking for them," he said.
Although Reardon subpoenaed the files about a month after they had been destroyed, he said it was likely that he requested them before they were destroyed since it was typically his practice to make such requests before resorting to a subpoena.
He also said he was told in a letter from then-Public Safety Commissioner Arthur Spada that the files had been destroyed as part of standard protocol that calls for old files to be discarded after a 10-year period. And he believes state police rushed to destroy these particular files before the deadline was technically up.
"The statutes clearly state that the files are to be destroyed 10 years after a case is closed, which means this one would have had to have been closed in January of 1994, which clearly was not the case," Reardon said.
But Beaupre said he doesn't believe there was any attempt by state police to protect Foley.
"As mysterious and conspiracy-like as it may seem, once again it sounds like time worked in his favor in the case jacket being destroyed," he said.
State police also waited until they had concluded their investigation, which was long after the diocese pulled Foley from public ministry, before relieving him of his chaplain duties.
But once they did on Dec. 27, 1994, Col. Joseph Perry, then deputy commissioner of the public safety department, made it clear to Foley that state police were convinced of his guilt.
"It is our position at this time that some of the allegations are true but the statute of limitations for the offenses has come due," he wrote.
Beaupre said that because chaplain is a ceremonial post, it's unlikely Foley handled any official duties during that time unless someone on the force asked him to do so.
"The word got out pretty quickly within the department that we were investigating him, so I doubt anyone was calling him," he said.
The reality was that Foley kept up appearances for a long time after the accusations surfaced, especially among firefighters.
'I Feel Like An Idiot Now'
Foley, 65, was raised in West Hartford by parents who both taught at a local secretarial school and took their two sons to St. Brigid Church in the Elmwood section of West Hartford.
He wanted to be a priest from a young age, according to his testimony in the 2003 deposition, and went to Catholic elementary and high schools before attending St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore.
He also had an early interest in firefighting and spent his free time as a teenager at the West Hartford Fire Department headquarters, where they allowed him to run the switchboard and work as a dispatcher.
He was ordained in the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hartford on May 4, 1967, which is the feast of St. Florian, patron saint of firefighters. A 1976 Courant article about Foley, the "firefighting chaplain," observed that the date was "purely by chance, but highly appropriate for a man whose career combines religion and firefighting."
Tony Toce, who was deputy chief of the Bloomfield Police Department in the late 1960s, said Foley had a habit of speeding through town to fires and accident scenes, which earned him the nickname "flying nun."
"As soon as a fire was lit or there was a major accident, he'd drop everything and jump into a car that was outfitted with radios and lights and sirens and take off without any regard to anyone else," Toce said. "He'd scream to the scene and then hang around. I never actually saw him fight a fire."
It was Toce who appointed Foley chaplain for his department.
"I feel like an idiot now," said Toce, who lives in Florida. "All the signs were there. He constantly had a load of kids with him."
Toce isn't the only one who feels duped by Foley - not by a long shot.
The New England Association of Fire Chiefs, for which Foley served as chaplain for more than 20 years, is at a loss to explain why it didn't know that Foley was removed from his Glastonbury parish in 1993 because of a complaint about sexual abuse.
The priest told them that the diocese had simply reassigned him to do "special projects," Provenzano said.
As a result, he said, Foley continued to serve as chaplain for the fire chiefs' association until 2002, when news of the lawsuits broke. Foley resigned but was granted an "honorary membership."
"He kept showing up at events," Provenzano said. "That was when I raised the issue of perception that somehow we were condoning his alleged activities."
Provenzano was so concerned about it he traveled to Bloomfield to meet with Foley and his diocesan superiors in October 2005. The purpose of the meeting was to request that Foley no longer attend association gatherings.
"He wasn't happy," Provenzano said, when asked what Foley's reaction was to the request. "He continued to maintain his innocence."
The archdiocese, he said, "actually beat around the bush" when he asked what Foley's official standing was as a priest.
Ann Griffith, one of the parishioners at Christ the King Church in Bloomfield, where Foley was assigned from 1967 to 1975, said she disliked Foley because she felt like he "looked down" on her and others. But Griffith said there were also rumors, even then, that Foley was not a person to leave alone with your kids.
"I didn't know for sure that he was doing things here with boys," Griffith said, "But it was kind of an understood thing. I regret the fact that I didn't speak out. But you just didn't do it then. You knew you wouldn't be believed."
Like Foley's other accusers, who claim the priest let them ride along to accidents and fire scenes, Doe said he was enticed by Foley's position as state police chaplain.
He was 14 when he met Foley through a CYO basketball league in Windsor Locks, which Foley led.
"He was a powerful person," Doe said. "He always told me, 'Stick with me and I can get you into the state police.'"
Instead, he was damaged for life by what the priest did to him, the man said.
"Even now when I'm driving on the highway and I see a state police cruiser behind me I get freaked out and start shaking because I don't know who it is," Doe said.
Contact Elizabeth Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org and Dave Altimari at email@example.com.
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