|Priest Accused of Sex Abuse Losing Fight against Extradition
By Jeff Parrott
February 12, 2010
SOUTH BEND — A federal magistrate judge Friday said he will deny a Catholic priest’s attempts to fight extradition to his native Ireland, where he faces child molestation charges.
Upon a request from the Irish government, the U.S. Department of Justice has been trying since early November to extradite the Rev. Francis Markey, 82, of South Bend.
A now-57-year-old man has told Irish police that Markey raped him twice at age 15 in 1968.
Today’s hearing had been postponed several times as Markey’s attorneys negotiated behind the scenes with U.S. officials, his attorney, Robert Truitt, has told The Tribune. Those talks failed to resolve the issue.
The only evidence of the crime presented by Irish authorities in their extradition request is a report by the alleged victim, who recalled being molested by Markey as a child while recently undergoing counseling for alcoholism, Markey attorney Mahmoud Bassiouni told U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Nuechterlein.
Bassiouni wanted to introduce testimony from expert witness John Harris, a Valparaiso psychologist, who would cite research showing that improperly trained counselors can "coach" or "induce" clients to recall past traumatic events as a way of rationalizing current substance abuse or mental health problems. Boussiani claimed that U.S. case law required Nuechterlein to find probable cause before extraditing Markey, and Harris’ testimony would be "explanatory" evidence the magistrate judge should consider before making that decision.
"It goes to the very heart of the credibility of the only witness in their case," Boussiani said.
But assistant U.S. attorney Kenneth Hayes argued that Markey’s attorneys were trying to "contradict" rather than merely "explain" the Irish government’s evidence, something not allowed in extradition cases under U.S. case law.
Nuechterlein agreed, and refused to let Harris testify.
"The evidence before this court may be weak. It may be suspect," Nuechterlein said. "But it’s simply not the role of this court to weigh the evidence. That’s up to the Irish court."
Nuechterlein said he will rule similarly on Markey’s other argument against extradition — that a 1993 change in the Irish criminal code means Markey cannot legally be extradited.
The code change abolished the law known as "buggery," which had previously criminalized anal sex — with children and between consenting adults.
But Nuechterlein has said the code change was likely in name only, and that is still illegal in Ireland to have sex with children. Regardless, it’s a legal question best left for an Irish court to resolve, he said.
Markey’s attorneys said they will file more motions seeking to block the extradition. Nuechterlein gave both parties until Wednesday to file written briefs, and he agreed to let Markey remain free on bail at least until then.
Staff writer Jeff Parrott:
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