Ex-Priest Innocent on Porn Charges

By Calvin Baker
The Times-Picayune [New Orleans, LA]
August 25, 1995

After deliberating less than an hour Thursday night, a jury of seven men and five women found former New Orleans priest Dino Cinel not guilty of child pornography charges.

As he walked out of the courthouse with his wife, Cinel said he was glad the trial was behind him. "Now we're going to get Sophia (their 5-year-old daughter). She's at the baby sitter."

Cinel's attorney, Buddy Lemann, said the jury rendered a not-guilty verdict because prosecutors never showed that Cinel intended to break the law.

Cinel had testified earlier in the day with a story of poverty, ambition and abuse at the hands of religious men who were supposed to provide an example, but instead led him astray.

Called as a witness in his trial on possession of child pornography charges, Cinel proved nearly unflappable. After describing in detail the first time he was molested by a priest, he said that the abuse stunted his sexual development and began a cycle of pedophilia.

The former priest was one of four witnesses who testified Thursday before the defense rested.

Cinel worked at St. Rita's Catholic Church in New Orleans for nine years. In 1988, while he was out of town, fellow priests looking for spare car keys found pornographic films, magazines and books in his room.

Though prosecutors said some of the material showed children under 17, the defense maintained that those items were bought before child pornography became illegal in 1986 and that Cinel was never aware that it was against the law to have them.

The majority of the child pornography found, Cinel testified, was bought when he was a doctoral candidate at Stanford University in the mid '70s.

In later years, he said, he recognized his affinity for child pornography as "a sickness in (his) soul." But, he maintained, he didn't know it was illegal.

Cinel testified that, after years of intensive therapy, he reconciled his sexual conflicts and eventually married and started a family.

Earlier, a local filmmaker testified that the 8 mm films found in Cinel's closet probably were made during the '60s and '70s. He was effectively quieted after materials that he had dated as being from the '70s were shown to bear a 1983 copyright in Roman numerals.

"I can only read to 100," he said, causing the courtroom to erupt in laughter.

Two of Cinel's friends also were called on to testify. They say that the former priest had a reputation for being honest and trustworthy.

Called back to the witness stand, Cinel was asked by Assistant District Attorney Tim McElroy if, while at St. Rita's, he had taken a vow of celibacy and if he had been living a lie. Cinel answered that he had broken his vows.

"I regret very deeply that for a number of years I was living a double life," he said.


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