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  Ex-Religious Teacher Gets Jail Time in Abusecase

By Mitchel Maddux
The Record [Bergen County, NJ]
August 26, 2000

A former Bergen Catholic High School teacher was sentenced Friday to five months in jail for savagely beating a boy in a 1 Canadian orphanage four decades ago.

Brother Thomas Cuthbert Ford, 66, a lay member of the Christian Brothers, a Roman Catholic order, was sentenced during a hearing in the Provincial Court in St. John's, Newfoundland, where he had traveled to face the charges after a long extradition battle.

Ford, a mathematics instructor at Oradell's Bergen Catholic from 1986-96 and a Hackensack resident for most of the past two years, wore a clerical collar as he stood in the court Friday morning, said Crown Prosecutor John Brooks.

Provincial Judge William Baker said he was sentencing Ford to a jail term because the orphanage staff member had abused a position of trust and brutalized the smaller boy, who was then 14. Brooks read into the court record a statement written by the victim. It described how Ford had beaten him with a leather strap in a shower at the orphanage as several other boys looked on. Edgar Hartery, now 59, wrote that the attack had had a substantial effect on him, and said that he had never forgotten what happened that day.

On Thursday, Hartery was present in court when Ford confessed to having administered the beating and apologized for his actions, describing them as"stupid."As part of an agreement with Canadian prosecutors, Ford agreed to travel voluntarily to Newfoundland from New Jersey and plead guilty to one count of assault causing bodily harm.

In exchange, the government dropped lesser assault charges that had been leveled against him by four other boys who were residents at the Mount Cashel orphanage in St. John's from 1956-59, said Brooks, the prosecutor. At the time of the attack, Ford was in his early 20s. Brooks had asked the judge to sentence Ford to six months in jail. Ford's defense attorney, David Eaton, had argued that his client should receive no jail time and that the criminal record of the assault should be expunged from his record.

At the conclusion of Friday's 30-minute hearing, Ford was turned over to Canadian corrections authorities. The former teacher will eventually be taken to a prison in Newfoundland where he must serve at least two-thirds of his sentence, Brooks said.

Several attempts to reach Eaton on Friday were unsuccessful. Ford is the 11th member of 1 the Christian Brothers religious order to be convicted of physically or sexually abusing boys at the now-closed Mount Cashel from the 1950s to the 1970s. Charges that such abuse was widespread inside the port city orphanage in Canada's easternmost province sent shock waves across the nation and prompted a federal investigation.

The first complaints of abuse at Mount Cashel surfaced in 1975, but a provincial police official allegedly intervened, prompting a later federal finding that an official coverup had occurred.

Mount Cashel was eventually closed by the order and was demolished several years ago. Today, a supermarket sits on the site.

Several multimillion-dollar lawsuits against the order are pending in Canadian courts, and Ford is one of the defendants.

Ford was indicted by Canadian federal authorities in 1996, but fought extradition and went into hiding in New Jersey, officials said.

Before arriving at Bergen Catholic, Ford taught at various Christian Brothers institutions in the United States, where he has lived since 1959.

Until May, the former math instructor lived in a Hackensack apartment building, where neighbors described him as quiet and friendly, but also mysterious. Ford reportedly told neighbors that he was leaving to work overseas for the government to qualify for a pension, and informed one that his name was not "Tom Ford."

 
 

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