|Alcohol, Homosexuality Charged in Jury Probe
By Elizabeth Hardin-burrola
March 20, 2009
HOLBROOK, Ariz. — Recently released transcripts from a 1983 grand jury investigation in Navajo County, Ariz., offer more details in the allegations against the Rev. John Boland of the Diocese of Gallup.
Boland was removed from ministry last month by Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, the current apostolic administrator for the Gallup Diocese, pending an investigation into an old sex abuse allegation against Boland. While preparing to transfer Boland to another parish, Olmsted discovered a 1983 newspaper clipping in the priest’s personnel file that indicated Boland had been arrested 26 years ago in Winslow, Ariz.
Boland’s court file in Navajo County Superior Court revealed he was initially charged with four misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and one felony count of committing a lewd and lascivious act with a child under age 15. The charges stemmed from a Feb. 26, 1983, incident involving four teenage boys. Three of the misdemeanor charges were soon dismissed, and Boland went on to sign a plea agreement whereby he pleaded guilty to the remaining misdemeanor charge and the prosecutor dropped the felony charge.
The final two counts involved Boland’s alleged crimes against Marcus Rogers, a 14-year-old Winslow boy. Rogers died in October 2007 at the age of 39, but his brother, mother, and maternal grandmother have stepped forward to publicly share what happened to Rogers. Their memories of the events of 1983, along with documents in the court record, have left the family believing they were kept in the dark about the case while Boland was allowed to make the plea agreement, transfer out of Winslow, and continue working as a priest in New Mexico for 26 more years.
Now the transcript from the grand jury, which indicted Boland, corroborates more details previously offered by Rogers’ family members. The transcript focuses on the testimony of the investigating officer, Lt. Sterling Norgaard of the Winslow Police Department. Norgaard said he learned of the allegations from Judy Howell, a Child Protective Services worker for Arizona’s Department of Economic Security.
According to Norgaard, the four teenage boys made statements to Howell and signed written statements for the police, along with their parents. In her interview with the Independent last month, Rogers’ mother, Helen Wagner, recalled the Child Protective Services interviews, but she didn’t remember having an interview with Norgaard.
The police officer testified the boys said they spent the evening of Feb. 26, 1983, playing the drinking game “quarters” with Boland in his church residence in Winslow.
The bottle of vodka, a “gimmick type” hypodermic bottle that hung on a hook, was purchased by Boland in Flagstaff, the boys said. Three of the teenagers left Boland’s apartment at about 10 p.m., around the time they said Boland put Rogers onto his own bed after Rogers, who suffered from juvenile diabetes, became very intoxicated and started vomiting during the drinking game.
One of the boys went home, Norgaard said, but two of the boys returned to Boland’s residence about 10 to 15 minutes later to get Rogers. The transcript offers conflicting information as to which boy actually went home. The two boys who did return reportedly knocked on the door, but received no answer, and soon the apartment’s interior lights were extinguished. The boys told the police officer they then walked to the back of the residence where Boland’s bedroom light was still on. They reported seeing Boland, who they alleged was undressed, through holes in the window’s curtains, and the boys made an allegation about what Boland did to Rogers, who was passed out on the bed.
After conducting the witness interviews and obtaining a search warrant, Norgaard said, Boland’s residence turned up a book about homosexuality, a package of Zigzag rolling papers, and an instruction kit for the vodka syringe-type bottle. Police later obtained the vodka bottle from one of the boys.
Norgaard testified that Boland admitted to drinking alcohol with the boys and sleeping in the nude with Rogers.
However, Norgaard said, Boland denied the boys’ sexual allegation.
According to the Navajo Superior Court file, Boland’s third private attorney, Michael V. Stuhff of Flagstaff, attacked Norgaard’s credibility and claimed the police officer “made false statements either deliberately or with a reckless disregard for their truth as to the content of statements which he had obtained from two boys alleged to be witnesses.”
The defense attorney claimed the police officer’s testimony about whether or not Rogers’ underwear had been removed was contradicted by witness statements; however, the court file does not contain any of the witness statements. Stuhff’s arguments, which contradict what Wagner remembers of the teenage boys’ statements to her and her own memories of her son’s condition, appear to have led to the September 1983 plea agreement between Boland and the Navajo County Attorney’s office.
Rogers’ family members say that’s a plea agreement they never had a say in because that’s a plea agreement they were never told about by the prosecutor.
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