|Defrocked Priest's Death Prevents Closure: Hull Resident Was Facing Trial in June on Child-Rape Charge
By Sue Reinert
Patriot Ledger [Hull]
May 30, 2007
Defrocked priest Anthony Laurano of Hull faced a trial on child-rape charges when he died Sunday, but three of his alleged victims will continue their civil lawsuit, their attorney said.
Prosecutors said Laurano, 82, raped an 8-year-old boy 16 years ago while he was pastor at St. Mary's Church in North Plymouth. The two alleged rapes occurred in the week before the child's First Communion.
While Laurano awaited trial on the child-rape indictment in 2005, he was charged with molesting a retarded neighbor in Hull. He pleaded innocent to both sets of charges.
Laurano was suspended in 2003, when the child-rape allegations involving the boy surfaced. The Vatican dismissed him from the priesthood in March.
He died at home of natural causes, Bridget Middleton, spokeswoman for Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz, said yesterday. She said she could not comment further until prosecutors speak to alleged victims.
Laurano was scheduled to go on trial next month on the child-rape charges.
"As much as children are safe right now, having the trial take so long left (Laurano's) victims without a real sense of justice," said psychologist Ann Hagan Webb, New England co-coordinator of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
The Rev. James Moran, a priest who says Laurano sexually assaulted him when he was a 25-year-old deacon assigned to St. Mary's, said: "When I got the call (that Laurano died before his trial), I was devastated.
"There's no closure now," the Rev. Moran said. "We were hoping to get closure through having a jury declare him guilty."
The Rev. Moran, who grew up in Boston and lives in Washington, D.C., said he is receiving disability payments from the Boston archdiocese because the alleged abuse made it impossible for him to function as a priest.
He said alleged victims were shocked to see that Laurano's death notice requested donations to Children's Hospital in his memory.
"Associating a perpetrator to Children's Hospital is atrocious," the Rev. Moran said.
Michelle Davis, a spokeswoman for Children's Hospital, said the donations will be accepted. Children's receives thousands of such gifts and does not give individual recognition, she said.
"Generally people who donate to Children's do so with the best of intentions," she said.
Prosecutors asked the court last year to expedite Laurano's trial on the child-rape charges, but trial dates last fall and earlier this year were postponed while defense attorney Elliott Weinstein sought psychiatric records, court records indicate.
Court rulings require lawyers to go through a complicated procedure to get victims' mental-health records. Weinstein said yesterday he had seen "all but one set of records."
"It was likely that a trial date would have been set perhaps at the next court event, which was scheduled for Thursday," Weinstein said.
Both criminal cases against Laurano were scheduled for a hearing tomorrow on mental health records.
Two of Laurano's alleged victims settled their civil claims against the Boston archdiocese and the former priest last year, attorney Carmen Durso said yesterday.
In 2005, Durso filed suit against Laurano and 10 other priests and former priests and several high-ranking church officials. The suit listed 25 unnamed plaintiffs.
After three more alleged victims of Laurano came forward, Durso filed another suit this year, singling out the former priest and church officials.
He went to court to keep the statute of limitations from foreclosing the new claims, but he immediately sought to delay the proceedings "so that it didn't interfere with the criminal case," Durso said.
"That's no longer an issue," he said. However, Laurano's death may complicate the civil suit because the plaintiffs will have to file their claims against his estate, Durso said.
Sue Reinert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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