Jury Set for Trial of Ex-Priest
Gay Sex Photos Will Be Shown
By James Varney
The Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA]
August 22, 1995
After a grueling marathon of questioning, a jury was selected Monday in the trial of former New Orleans priest Dino Cinel, charged with possession of child pornography.
It took more than eight hours to whittle down a vast pool of jurors, with District Judge Frank Marullo refusing to give even a short lunch break. Cinel sat quietly at the defense table throughout the day, conferring with his attorneys about juror selections.
Attorneys grilled jurors, who will be sequestered, about their views on pornography and the Roman Catholic Church and priests, warning that Cinel's trial would include lurid tapes and photographs of young men involved in gay sex.
Assistant District Attorney Tim McElroy insists the evidence includes shots of boys under age 17, the legal age of consent in Louisiana.
But Cinel's attorney, Arthur "Buddy" Lemann, said "the overwhelming majority" of the gay pornography involves young men, not juveniles. And, he said, the pornography that does display minors was bought in the early 1970s, when the material was legal.
"My defense ultimately is going to be: He never possessed the necessary criminal intent," he said.
Monday's action marks the culmination of a long legal struggle for Cinel, who was first charged in May 1991. District Attorney Harry Connick has acknowledged he initially ignored evidence against Cinel, hoping to spare the church embarrassment. Connick is a parishioner at St. Rita's Catholic Church.
Cinel was employed at St. Rita's between 1979 and 1988, and worked as a professor at Tulane University during that time. In 1988, a colleague looking for a spare set of car keys found gay pornography in Cinel's room, much of which was later turned over to Connick's office.
At the time of the discovery, the priest was in Italy. He promptly resigned from the priesthood and said he was addicted to having sex with young men he picked up in New Orleans. Cinel, who later married and has apologized for his mistakes, also said he often filmed his encounters. Lemann said none of those tapes will be introduced as evidence.
In January 1992, and again in March 1994, Marullo threw out the case. At first the judge ruled that Cinel couldn't be tried on state criminal charges because the district attorney first agreed not to prosecute. A higher court ruled that the former priest could be tried. Marullo later dismissed the charges, saying that part of the pornography law is unconstitutional. But a higher court reinstated the charge.
Last March, Marullo ruled that Connick should excuse himself from prosecuting Cinel, but that decision was overturned by a state appeals court in April. The case also has generated a flurry of civil lawsuits.
After leaving the priesthood and New Orleans, Cinel was hired as a history professor at the City University of New York, but a university spokeswoman said he was dismissed from that post Feb. 14.
Opening statements are scheduled this morning, and Lemann predicted the trial will take at least a week. If convicted of possessing pornography involving a juvenile, Cinel could face up to $10,000 in fines and from two to 10 years in prison.
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